Originally released in 2011, the excellent drama Take Shelter is getting a deluxe UK Limited Edition Blu-ray release on 3rd September which features not only superb new artwork and packaging, alongside a huge amount of special features including a limited 40-page booklet with words from Michael Brooke and a Film School Rejects interview with director Jeff Nichols by Jack Giroux.
Take Shelter itself is part psychological thriller, part-home invasion movie but with a distinct difference because the invasion takes place inside the mind of lead character Curtis LaForche profoundly played by Michael Shannon. Directed by Nichols, the film also stars Jessica Chastain, who plays Curtis’ caring, strong-minded wife Samantha. Together, the couple live a seemingly content life, portrayed early on when together they watch their deaf six-year-old daughter asleep in her bedroom, but when Curtis starts having extremely vivid nightmares of an oncoming apocalyptic storm, the barriers between his reality and the real-world around begin to blur.
It’s vital to point out that Take Shelter isn’t your usual thriller in this genre because Nichols’ film is much smarter than that. Over the 121 minute running time, we witness a wholly convincing and progressive build of psychological distrust that burns in Curtis’ own mind. He struggles to understand whether the dreams he is having are just that, or if they’re predicting the future. However, it’s also clear he’s taking them seriously because after a rather nasty first nightmare, he reacts immediately by fencing their family dog outside despite it living inside with them for years without any problems.
Take Shelter is compelling because it tells us about an every-day man with extreme issues. Curtis begins to have increasingly intense anxiety dreams and pushed on by the strength of their reality, he starts drifting in and out of his day-to-day life. Ruled mainly by the fear for the safety of his daughter, Curtis takes on the physical task of expanding the tornado shelter below their house, much to the bemusement of his wife and work colleagues, because no storms have been predicted.
Nichols’ film is one you’ll be effortlessly absorbed within, shot on 35mm film and of a minimalist nature, his film is all whites, greys and pale hues that reflect the ‘real’ nature of the family and their day-to-day life. The contrasting visuals and sounds come from Curtis’ visions of the apocalyptic storms and extreme, crackles of thunder and sparks of lightning. This approach heightens the distress for the audience, as it would for Curtis, and also asks the question of what we believe in, as the viewer.
Shannon initially plays his loss of ‘normality’ quite subtly but as his fear grows, there will be a point where almost everyone he knows will question his sanity and you’ll witness a full-on-Shannon-explosion of self-doubt and frustration – it’s quite exceptional. If you consider a narrative idea in Inception, and how ‘people’ within the dream would attack you if they knew something wasn’t right, this takes that panic and pushes it into the everyday.
Jessica Chastain is also excellent as his honest, confused wife Samantha. She’s a hugely important piece of the story and comes across as fair and ready to help her husband when he needs it. However, his increasing erratic behaviour rightly concerns and saddens her. But, overall, she’s the strong one when to support and controlling the household, and she could leave – as he expects her to but instead she traces a plan towards something, hopefully, better.
Take Shelter is a smart film, showing that even the most focused, every-day mind can be lost in the suggestions of thoughts and ideas. It’s well worth picking up to watch again but also for the impressively well packaged and presented limited edition box-set.