|LFF Review: Take Shelter|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Sunday, 23 October 2011 09:13|
Director: Jess Nichols
After the neighbourhood nutter in Revolutionary Road and Kim Fowley in The Runaways, Michael Shannon is getting good at playing mad people. Take Shelter adds to his portfolio of unbalanced men with Curtis, a miner devoted to his supportive wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain, continuing her campaign of world film domination) and deaf daughter Hannah (Stewart). But headaches, bad dreams and hallucinations soon arrive, coupled with a niggling suspicion that the world is about to end in a horrific storm.
Take Shelter’s script intelligently approaches the thorny issue of mental illness, focusing on the domestic fallout as Curtis refuses to discuss it with his pained partner. But while the relationships and dialogue are both without flaw, Nichols’ real trick is to keep things rooted to Curtis’ perspective. We see and hear what he (thinks he) does, aided by some staggering visual effects – clouds swirl on the horizon and birds start thronging wildly like they’re auditioning for that Capital FM advert from five years ago.
Most unsettling of all, perhaps, are the vivid nightmare sequences. Violent outbursts suddenly erupt as brownish rain pounds on Curtis’ face, and the unexpected editing makes it all feel real. Curtis' delusions repeatedly wrong-foot us, multiplying our sense of dread as his mental health worsens, but Shannon conveys it all by barely saying a word.
It's an understated performance from the actor, and his magnetic presence makes Take Shelter spellbinding to watch - particularly during the nuanced moments of internal unease. At one point, Curtis stands by a deserted motorway as giant forks of lightning shoot down from the sky. "Is anybody else seeing this?" he mumbles. The grand apocalyptic visions are terrifying to behold, but more harrowing still is the hushed sense of chaos as one man's mind succumbs to total disorder.