Take Shelter: Film Review


Curtis LaForche is having visions. A storm is coming and he is struggling with trying to protect his family and coping with the feeling that he also might be losing his mind.

‘Take Shelter’ is a film with many layers. It is a movie that doesn’t mind taking it’s time to establish its characters. And it is also one of the best films I’ve seen recently. Directed by Jeff Nichols with a million dollar budget. With that aside this film looks absolutely beautiful. The CGI is so well integrated and looks more realistic that what you’ve seen in a 50 million dollar film. Sound plays a huge part in this movie. The sound of wind sweeping the trees is almost a constant on the soundtrack.  The movie perfectly captures the feeling of the world before a storm. The calm. The beautiful skies. The hue that the world takes on. The unsettling feeling that puts you on edge that something is about to happen. Something big.

Michael Shannon (who is one of the best working actors alive) plays Curtis. At the start of the film he starts having dreams. He sees the oil-like rain falling from the sky. Huge looming thunder clouds form in the field outside his house. At first Curtis just thinks it’s a bad dream and nothing more. But soon the dreams grow in intensity. A dream in which his faithful dog attacks him causes him to have pain in his arm all day in his waking life. He has dreams of his neighbors, who appear to have gone blank, attack his family and cause him to wake up gasping for breath, wetting the bed, and going into seizures. The nightmares in this film are truly terrifying. They feel like real nightmares and when they happen you aren’t sure at first if it’s a dream or if it’s really happening.  Curtis is just a normal man at the start of this film. He works hard for his family, is kind to his wife and daughter(who has gone deaf), and appears to have, as his friend tells him one night, a good life. But that changes quickly in a drastic way.

Curtis soon starts having visions during the day. Hearing thunder when no one else seems to. Noticing the flight patterns of swarms of birds. He also notices the storm shelter in his back yard and starts putting a lot of time and money into building it up. At first he tries to hide his problems from his wife (played by Jessica Chastain)until a particularly bad nightmare forces him to open up to her about what’s going on. She is understandably concerned and wants Curtis to look into getting help. We find out that Curtis’s mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was diagnosed around the same age that Curtis is. At this point the movie makes a crucial turn. We are given a character; who we are not certain is really experiencing this phenomenon or if he is just suffering from a mental illness. Curtis doesn’t even totally believe that he is really seeing this but he continues on his work on the shelter nevertheless. He sacrifices for his family albeit in a new way which is only understood by himself.

To talk more about what happens in the movie would be a disservice. It really is a film that excels from not knowing much about what happens. However this is a film that really understands how to juggle themes and genre. It can be at times terrifying, at times extremely sad, and also touching. It’s a movie about coming to acceptance, whether it’s about a condition or just believing in someone because they need you to. It would easy to have the supporting characters just completely write Curtis off. His wife loves him, is concerned for him, but is also angry because she at first doesn’t fully understand why he’s doing this or what is happening to her husband. There is a pivotal scene towards the end of the movie that Chastain’s character forces Curtis to make a decision. Not because she’s giving him an ultimatum but because he needs it for himself.

The performances in this film are outstanding. Michael Shannon brings so much to the role and you can feel his pain and frustration. He also manages for you to feel sorrow for him and want to believe in him which is what any good actor can do in a role, is to make you care for a fictional character. Jessica Chastain is also fantastic as his wife Samantha. She is not just a one-note character, but has depth and feeling. Chastain is just starting to arrive in her career and I expect to seem amazing things from her in the future as well.

A lot of discussion has been made about the ending of the film being divisive. I think it was the perfect way to end the film and I’ll leave it at that. If you like to be challenged by a movie then this is the movie for you. It is a beautiful portrait that feels both gigantic and claustrophobic. It’s a movie that makes you uneasy and questioning at the end of the film. It’s a movie that is while feeling like it is plunging into insanity is at the same time in total control by the director and actors. And that is quite a feat.  I highly recommend this movie.


8 thoughts on “Take Shelter: Film Review

  1. Good stuff, mate.

    ‘Take Shelter’ is a film I’ve had my eye on for awhile. Looking forward to seeing it at some point, probably a rental though…

  2. Nicely done, sir.

    It certainly derives its strength from the two leads, there’s no doubt about that. We seem to agree on that, and on the overall quality of the movie, so lets turn our discussion to the ending, no? Hope you dont mind if I use a spoiler warning and then lay it out…


    So, the big issue I have with the ending is you cant be sure its not another dream. And if its not a dream, its just way too freaking ironic that he went through all of that and then would get killed at the beach. (I dont think they could get away from the potential Tsunami)

    What did you think? I’m honestly still just… mulling it over.

    • Fogs- on the ending. I think it wasn’t the original threat that he thought. I think, since most of the movie is about faith in a way, not just in a god, but just in an idea or a person. Due to the fact that his family was able to push him out of the shelter when he was certain they needed to stay underground, the ending is the retribution for his lack of faith. It’s like that idea of if you can’t see beneath a table does it actually exist. What I mean is if he hadn’t had gone out of the shelter the possibility is there that the storm actually did hit and if they waited it out like he felt they should have, they would have been safe. However, because he allowed his faith to be wavered he paid the price at the end.
      That’s my interpretation, however that is what I like about the film because it is up to anyone to really take from it what you will. I think the storm is definitely real at the end because it is the only time in the movie that anyone else actually sees it.
      I think this is a movie that will require more than one view (and for performances alone it’s well worht it) I think it’s one of those films that has so much more going on that is directly in the frame. It definitely stuck with me for a long time afterwards. Sorry for the novel of a response haha

      • No, no, man. LOL. This is the GOOD stuff right here. This is why I suck my way through all the *$%&ing sludge work like “Thats My Boy” 😀

        Seriously. Now THAT’S an eye opening thought! I LIKE that. The waivering faith.

        I’m still not sold on the fact that it wasn’t a dream… I mean, you’re right, it would take a review to ensure no one else ever acknowledges the “rain” in the previous dream sequences… but wow. Yeah. That makes things a little different.

        Great take. Good catch… very good one. Thanks for pointing that out. 😀

      • No problem man! That’s what I like so much about films like this. I like when a filmmaker has the guts to put something like this in a film and not feel the need to explain it or spell it out. Sometimes it is done just to be lazy, but the fact that everything else in this film is so calculating I don’t feel the ending was tacked on or an afterthought. I think this is the response he wanted from the film. And it’s brave to do it because for some people something like the ending can make or break an entire film for them. I’m more on the end that if I enjoyed a film up to the last bit, I usually still enjoy the movie because the ride there is more meaninful than getting to the destination. As long as the ending doesn’t betray everything else leading up to it

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