Re-View: Take Shelter
We take a second look at the method behind Michael Shannon’s madness.
Our first look “The movie breezes past a perfect ending to a finale that feels unearned, even self-defeating.”
Another view Take Shelter centers on Curtis (Michael Shannon), an Ohio construction worker and family man suffering from crippling nightmares. If the main mystery of the film is whether he’s losing his mind—manifesting the schizophrenia that runs in his family—or whether his apocalyptic dreams portend an actual impending collapse, then the final scene might seem to provide a firm answer.
But to reduce the movie to the question of “is he or isn’t he crazy?” is to overlook the complexity and poignancy of its take on the character’s escalating anxiety. Before the onset of his visions, Curtis is a figure of old-fashioned reliability: He has a job, a home, a loving wife (Jessica Chastain) and child. Yet the stability of these things is fragile, beset by threats on all sides—threats that Curtis’s mania exacerbates. It only takes one mistake at work for your paycheck to go away, and only a few missed mortgage payments to lose your house. Curtis’s apparently irrational insistence on building a tornado shelter in his backyard may leave his family more financially vulnerable than ever before, but he’s acting in response to a more deeply seated need to retreat from a world that offers no respite. In that context, the ending isn’t about apocalypse, but a moment of shared understanding between Curtis and his wife about the dread that has seeped into his everyday life—a feeling he may never shake off. (Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tue 14.)