A horror masterpiece.
Having just reviewed the mess that is “Nope,” I thought I would reflect on the stunningly executed sequences and the perfect tone maintained by director Jeff Nichols in his horror masterpiece “Take Shelter.” My favorite film of 2011, it boasts a tremendous performance by Michael Shannon as a quiet man raising a family somewhere in the Midwest who has horrific nightmares and then daytime visions (or are they seizures?) of a meteorological disturbance followed by the feeling that we (the Earth) are being visited by something alien, something that is the very definition of evil. In true “North by Northwest” fashion, the fact that these visions occur on the most beautiful days without a cloud in the sky makes them even more disturbing – Nichols is a master of blending sound and vision.
But that’s just the outline of the magical web that our director weaves. A superb Jessica Chastain plays Shannon’s wife. 2011 was her big breakout year, and here she gives one the most beautifully intuitive and understated performances of spousal and maternal love ever captured on screen – she had just come off Terence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” and her two roles sort of blend together. Shannon and Chastain have a hearing-impaired little girl who, although she does not speak, is a seminal character here, right up to that astonishing scene on the beach where she is the first person… (No spoilers!).
Complicating matters further, and adding a whole other layer to the film, is that Shannon’s mother – a one-scene knockout by Kathy Baker – developed late adult-onset schizophrenia in her mid-to-late thirties. Is Shannon developing the first symptoms?
Well received at the time of its release and included in the list of movies for which Chastain performed a (rare) film critics’ sweep, getting feted by all of the big three (NYFCC, LAFCA, and NSFC) – but not Oscar – it is a movie that can only grow in stature as each new generation discovers it’s magnificence and, like Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” reminds us of just how fragile we are. How we are all just one step away from oblivion.