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Film Festival Today

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Shelter From The Storm

Written by: FFT Webmaster | October 13th, 2011

Michael Shannon in TAKE SHELTER

When historians look back at our current period, they will undoubtedly remark on the lingering doubt and paranoia that has cloaked our times since the attacks of 9-11. The disquiet that plagues our dreams and our waking hours is a quality that is remarkably well suited to the motion picture form, which creates a kind of dream state while waking. The complexity of  nightmares and their long reach into our daily lives is explored in the finely tuned American independent film TAKE SHELTER, which is fast emerging as one of the key indie films of the year.  Creating its first stir at the Sundance Film Festival last January, the film went on to win the Grand Prize in the International Critics Week section of the Cannes Film Festival. It is currently on screens via uber distributor Sony Pictures Classics, with the film expected to figure strongly in both the indie film awards sweepstakes (the Gotham and Independent Spirit Awards) and possibly at the Golden Globes and Oscars as well.

The psychological thriller reunites writer/director Jeff Nichols and star Michael Shannon, whose work together on the southern gothic SHOTGUN STORIES was career-making for them both. In TAKE SHELTER, Shannon is shattering as a construction worker who begins to question his own sanity as he sees signs of a looming environmental apocalypse. Are his vivid dreams a message of what is to come or a reflection of his paranoia and mental instability, a condition that apparently runs in his family. When he begins having trouble telling the difference between his waking and dream states, his behavior starts to effect his family, particularly his bewildered wife, played with restraint by Jessica Chastain. When he illegally borrows equipment from work to construct an elaborate storm shelter, he risks his job and his family stability to await an approaching apocalypse that may or may not just be a fever in his brain. The film’s final act, with the family having a brief respite at a North Carolina beach, leaves the film open-ended…..are the storm clouds racing in from the horizon a validation of his early fears or just another episode of his psychosis run amuck?

Shannon, who was nominated for an Oscar for his cameo as a disturbed young man in the film RESERVATION ROAD, knows how to play “crazy” and his deeply felt performance creates immediate audience empathy, while we also remain wary of what steps he will take as he plays out his delusional fantasies. Chastain, this year’s “it girl”, provides exemplary support as the solid wife and mother who may not be able to keep her loving husband from succumbing to his personal demons. In a nice touch, director Nichols also keeps the audience off balance with imagery that is as spooky as it is realistic. It is rare to see such astounding special effects in a modestly budgeted indie film. TAKE SHELTER leaves a strong resonance that lasts long after the final fade out. For more information and to view the film’s trailer, visit: http://www.sonyclassics.com/takeshelter/

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