Friday, October 28, 2011

Take Shelter

A construction worker with a family history of mental illness, living with his wife and hearing impaired daughter in rural Ohio begins having nightmarish apocalyptic visions. Fearing the vivid dreams as an omen, he begins to build a tornado shelter in his backyard against his wife's consent, the family budget, and the concerns of the community. Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter" can be seen as a stark, sobering take on "Field of Dreams", made in the same leisured, hypnotic vein of his first outing "Shotgun Stories", which also starred Michael Shannon. Shannon is the most interesting actor to emerge in recent years, and here he again brings his inwardly intense, powerfully brooding sensibilities to an intelligent character who is so paralyzed with the fear of what his visions might actually mean. Jessica Chastain, another performer on the rise having already starred in a succession of good films this year, delivers a fine performance as a loving wife who has reached her wit's end on how to deal with her troubled, uncompromising husband. Another actor I've come to admire recently is Shea Whigham, Shannon's "Boardwalk Empire" costar, who too is excellent here playing man not knowing how to react to his friend's strange behavior. I'm not sure there's a name for it, but over the past ten decade there have been some really fine filmmakers to emerge from the south, including Shannon, Nichols, Whigham, and the director David Gordon Green, all of whom have collaborated with each other in some form or another. Their films offer a leisured, intimate, and often powerful view of sleepy small town America, and here we have another excellent example of that breathless kind of filmmaking.