Take Shelter is a haunting movie that will either stay with you for days or frustrate you with its deliberate pace. I can understand why some viewers would lose patience with this film that keeps you guessing until the end about whether Curtis, a devoted husband and father is losing his mind or is a modern day Noah who can see what everyone else around him cannot. I like the suspense of not knowing if Curtis’s nightmares and hallucinations are real or imagined and this story burrowed into my psyche.
Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, seems to have a good life. He has an attractive, loving wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain), a house, and a well-paying job. The only wrinkle in the picture is that daughter Hannah (Tovah Stewart) is deaf but the family appears to have adjusted to this and is happy.
Soon, though Curtis starts experiencing strange dreams of yellow rain pouring down from the sky and violent lightning storms that eventually spill over into his waking hours. He becomes convinced that his family is in danger and decides to expand their existing storm shelter into a fortified bunker where they can live should disaster strike. At the same time, he’s afraid the schizophrenia that drove his mother into a mental facility years ago may be manifesting itself in him. Curtis’s continued uncertainty and strange behavior threaten his job, his safety, and his marriage.
Writer/director Jeff Nichols has a sure hand that gives a consistent tone and feel to the film. This is not an effects movie. It is all story and atmosphere, which means it hinges on the acting and directing. Nichols did well to cast Michael Shannon who is mesmerizing, as a man who doesn’t trust in his own sanity yet can’t shake the feeling of foreboding that a catastrophic event is headed their way. Jessica Chastain is equal to the task of playing his wife although the role is underwritten. She is one of the least inquisitive wives I’ve seen on screen. Despite her husband’s increasingly erratic behavior, she doesn’t question or try to find out what is going on with him until their lives have almost fallen apart.
In a thought provoking and riveting scene Curtis reveals his worst fears and it makes you wonder would any of us in today’s modern society believe in or recognize a true prophet? You’ll have to wait until the very end to find out whether Curtis is deranged or a visionary but the question remains can Curtis save his family? That is left for the audience to decide.