Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head.
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red!
Cryin’s not for me, no.
Cause I’m gonna quit my job and take out a home loa–
“Take Shelter” is a psychological drama from last year, starring Michael Shannon as a man who begins to have extremely graphic nightmares about catastrophic storms. The dreams are severe enough that they begin to encroach on his daily life… affecting his relationship with his wife and child, his performance on his job, and leading him to question his own sanity.
It’s a harrowing movie, driven by an intense lead performance, and definitely worth your time to check out.
Michael Shannon is perhaps best known at this point for his role on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” as FBI agent Van Alden. He’s an Academy Award nominee (Best Supporting Actor, “Revolutionary Road”), will be playing the heavy opposite Joseph Gordon Levitt in this summer’s “Premium Rush” and will be playing General Zod in next year’s Superman movie, “Man of Steel”.
It’s his performance that is front and center here. “Take Shelter” features a small cast, and is tightly focused on the experience of Shannon’s character, Curtis LaForche. LaForche has a wife and a daughter and a modest home in Ohio. He works as a supervisor at a rock quarry nearby. His daughter is deaf, but is about to get cochlear implants. It’s an expensive procedure, but his medical insurance plan his job provides is a good one, and will cover it.
Cracks begin to appear in his daily life however, with the onset of the dreams. In them, intense storm clouds and swarms of birds precede a violent storm that rains not water, but a viscous, oily substance. What follows is even more frightening for hm, however. In each of the dreams, after the storm, people or animals become enraged and violent… they threaten him and his family.
Upon wakening, the dreams are so intense they shake LaForche, seeping into his daily life. He begins to keep his dog outside instead of in the house. He begins to miss time at work. Most noticeably though, he begins to expand the storm shelter in his back yard. At the beginning of the process, it’s a simple, small, concrete room with a makeshift plank bench… LaForche’s visions drive him to expand the shelter radically. Plumbing, air filters, lighting, gas masks, supplies, everything. He invests in the project financially, borrows heavy equipment from his job, and draws the attention of his friends, family and neighbors with his labors.
Compounding the issue is that his dreams are beginning to manifest physical side effects for him, and he’s begun to have hallucinations even while he’s awake. He is forced to question his own sanity.
The audience, meanwhile, is given to wonder whether he is going insane or is he actually having visions foretelling an apocalyptic event?
Shannon convincingly portrays a man whose grasp on reality is beginning to dissipate. He’s confused at times at first, then frightened, at times he’s in severe denial… but always, through every moment, you can tell he’s trying so hard to be normal. To tough it out. That everything is fine, and everything will be ok. As the situation worsens, that’s a pretense he’s forced to abandon… eventually he has to choose whether to fully embrace reality or his visions. Shannon plays it all out for us with a restrained, yet expressive performance. He’s helped by Jessica Chastain, who lends her talents as the “voice of reason” character. As his actions become more delusional, she stands for what the rational course of action would be, and Chastain gives Shannon solid accompaniment by way of counterpoint. She’s alternately resentful, concerned, disbelieving, caring. Together, Chastain and Shannon are asked to carry the movie and do a fantastic job of doing exactly that.
It’s a solid movie, and made for an engrossing watch, but I’m still not sure yet how satisfied I am with the movie’s resolution. I won’t hold that against ”Take Shelter” too much, seeing as frankly, that coin may still land on “I really like it”.