With the city's annual Film Festival in town, many of Philadelphia's proudest moviegoers did not disregard Jeff Nichols and his latest release Take Shelter. Having skipped on some movies at the festival, I trekked over to the Ritz Bourse on Sunday night to catch a late showing of the film. Much to my surprise, the theatre filled up quite nicely and we all sat back to enjoy one of this year's most talked about independent films.
Take Shelter takes place in a small, present day Ohio town. Curtis (played by Shannon) and his wife Samantha (played by Chastain) are struggling to make ends meet while they raise their deaf daughter, Hannah. Curtis is a blue collar worker and on weekends his wife helps out by selling hand made linens at a booth. However, one day their lives take a turn for the worse when Curtis begins to experience intense apocalyptic dreams and hallucinations. Convinced these are a sign of what's about to come, Curtis spends the last of his family's money on renovating the storm shelter in their backyard.
For starters, director Jeff Nichols does a superb job of casting with his two leads Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Both give dazzling performances as a happily married couple who begin to drift apart as these visions start to consume Shannon's character's life. Each of the very talented cast members manage to evoke empathy from the audience. As a viewer, you'll undoubtedly place yourself in the shoes of each character and, as a result, Take Shelter becomes a part of you. The film is extremely easy to connect with, and that is in great part due to the effort of its cast.
On the other hand, despite its top notch acting, Take Shelter does find itself inappropriately paced. The tension created throughout the film builds at a sluggish pace and, although the ending is worth it, the experience feels more drawn out than it should. But even though the movie crawls to the finish line, I will say that its conclusion is thought provoking and downright excellent. Thus, making the film all that much better.
I've been a longtime fan of Michael Shannon and his work. Hopefully, with the success of Take Shelter, he'll finally receive the recognition he deserves. He offers one of the best performances I've seen all year, and, therefore, Take Shelter is definitely a movie for everyone to see. The film is one of the best character studies I've seen in a while and certainly worth seeing.