Take Shelter (2011) directed by Jeff Nichols
Take Shelter is about a movie about impending doom, a great storm perhaps, maybe even the end of the world, no matter. Whatever it is, it is coming and it will be biblical. The only problem is that only one person can feel it. Curtis, a simple family man with a normal life, suddenly begins to have nightmares so vivid that they haunt him every waking (and sleeping) moment. His dog bites him in his dream and when he wakes up his arm throbs with pain at where he was bit. He promptly builds a doghouse outside for the beloved dog that has lived indoors his whole life. He dares not tell his wife why. Curtis realizes he is hallucinating but cannot help but be consumed by his visions. For him, this is a serious issue since his mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age he is now. Is he losing his mind or is he really foreseeing the upcoming apocalypse? Despite a tight family budget that revolves around their daughter's health care, Curtis becomes preoccupied in fixing up the tornado shelter in the backyard alienating his family and friends in the process.
The beauty of the film is in the incredible unease that never lets go. It's in watching Michael Shannon's performance as Curtis, a man losing his grip on everything around him. As the viewer, we have no idea what is real and what isn't because we see things through Curtis's eyes. We don't know if we are crazy with him or actual witnesses of the future. It actually doesn't matter if Curtis is crazy or not because the doom that he feels is absolutely real. We only have to believe how he feels, not the visions themselves.
It would be easy to overlook this film as a typical supernatural suspense drama, and it is great at being just that, but very few films can achieve the quietly unnerving atmosphere Take Shelter is able to maintain throughout its entirety. It is also a fantastic look at the toll mental illness takes on the affected and the people that surround them. The film is all about Michael Shannon's performance, but Jessica Chastain, who's been in everything lately (The Help, The Debt, The Tree of Life), is great as well as the wife who struggles to deal with his husband's condition.
This film has a couple of incredibly powerful scenes. One is when Curtis confronts the gossiping community around him that is as terrifying as the visions he sees. The other is when a storm does come and Curtis and his wife and daughter are in the storm shelter. This is one of the best scenes I've seen all year and I wish the film ended right there because as I mentioned before, it doesn't matter whether Curtis is right or not. The heart of the film lies in the the shelter itself not what lies outside. The emotional climax is in facing whatever is out there together which I thought was so beautifully done.