Take Shelter

500 Days Of Film Reviews Take Shelter And Finds An Intense And Gripping Psychological Thriller

Curtis is having nightmares that he just can’t shift.

Each dream starts with a storm of apocalyptic proportions. Each dream sees him struggling to protect his young daughter.

Curtis feels compelled to protect his family by building a large tornado shelter - just in case his dreams turn out to be premonitions.

Unfortunately, his growing obsession begins to risk the good life that he has worked so hard to build.

Curtis is not unaware that his behaviour is becoming increasingly unstable. His mother, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, had to be institutionalized when he was ten. He is scared that he is going down the same path.

His biggest fear, however, is of being separated from his family and not being able to protect them. He just cannot be sure what does his family needs protecting from.

Is It Any Good?

Take Shelter really surprised me. I did not expect an intense and gripping movie experience. But I certainly got one.

Director, Jeff Nicols, takes time to build his story - employing clever techniques to unsettle his audience. He ensures that we remain uncertain throughout as to whether Curtis is spiraling into psychosis or if he will be proved right in the end.

Either way, I just felt so awful for Curtis and the film's growing sense of dread weighed heavily on me. I really respected Take Shelter for not going down cliched paths and for avoiding obvious plot contrivances. 

Curtis does everything right in this film. He understands that he could be ill and so he consults a doctor and a counsellor. Meanwhile, to be on the safe side, he follows the instincts that remain after his nightmares.

For example, in one dream, the family dog attacks him. From that point on he is worried about the animal, particularly with regards the safety of his young daughter.

Soon Curtis’ life starts to collapse under the weight of his premonitions/delusions. And, by this point, I was gripped as I cared a lot about him and his family. 

The fact that I cared so much is is largely due to the incredible performances by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

They are both superb. There is a really powerful and emotional scene in the tornado shelter towards the end of the film that had me right on the edge of my seat, literally holding my breath.

As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly intense, full of dread and totally gripping.

I was desperately hoping that things would work out for Curtis and that he could return to his good life - even while realising that this was fast becoming impossible.

Random Observations

I really enjoyed this film.

However, it did leave me wondering about the ending. Some people have criticised the film’s final scenes as being a cop out. I am wondering if, perhaps, the ending could be read in different ways - leaving us still unsure of the cause of Curtis’ dreams. 

Have you seen Take Shelter? If so, I’d love you to let me know what you thought of this film (and indeed the ending) in the comments section below!

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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