Sunday, November 13, 2011
Everything that happens in the "real" world of Take Shelter is grounded in the economic and social reality of America, circa 2011. Curtis and Samantha are stable, but barely; they depend on his health insurance for Hannah's cochlear implant and her bazaar sales for extra money to take a vacation. Good mental health care is hard to come by; the best Curtis can do is a genial counselor (LisaGay Hamilton). The baroque horrors in Curtis's head played against the mundane horrors of the family checking account are what give Take Shelter it's emotional power. Shannon's placidity is disturbing because we know what's going on inside, and it serves to make the moment scarier when his mind spills over at a community potluck supper. Jessica Chastain, continuing her yearlong personal film festival, is Shannon's equal in every respect. The balance of fear, love, and self-preservation in Chastain's eyes when a real storm takes the family to the new shelter is as stirring as anything I've seen this year. Why then does Jeff Nichols betray these performances and the world he created in such detail? The ending of Take Shelter is a cheat, not a trick, and I have to question why someone who'd end the film this way would even bother to make it at all. I await Nichols' next film with great interest, but in his desire to make a grand statement here he has made a good film that ends up being about less than he intended.