Take Shelter (2011)

(On Cable TV, July 2017) Writer/Director Jeff Nichols is now firmly on my radar after Mud and Midnight Special: his quasi-tactile sense of verisimilitude is astonishing, the local colour he brings to his stories is exceptional and he gets to control his movies by acting both as screenwriter and director. His frequent collaborations with Michael Shannon also help, as exemplified by Take Shelter, in which Shannon plays a young dad trying to keep himself and his family together through increasingly worrisome premonitions. It’s not a big movie, but it’s effective. The tension ramps up, Shannon is mesmerizing and Jessica Chastain shows up as a wife who tries to understand what her husband is going through. The ending packs a surprise whammy. It’s a good movie. But, if I can dedicate the rest of this review to post-viewing thoughts, I approached the film as low-key fantasy: there wasn’t any ambiguity in my mind as to whether the protagonist was suffering from delusions or prophetic dreams. I’m a genre-movie fan, and didn’t really bother with any realistic interpretation. When the surprise-ending came, I was more than willing to see it as a classical, literal fantastic twist with no other interpretation. Imagine my surprise when I started seeing references to the ending being open-ended—as a genre-comfortable fan, I hadn’t bothered with the depressingly realistic interpretation of the ending, in which we go back into the protagonist’s mind for another premonition. There’s probably a lesson here in terms of audience expectations and what they get from a movie, but I’m perhaps more interested in noting that Take Shelter’s ending does successfully walk a difficult line between literal and metaphorical interpretation … while being unusually successful in fulfilling both.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *