Take Shelter is a film I waited to see once I knew it would be at Ebertfest and I’m so glad my first experience with it was on the big screen. We were joined by writer/director, Jeff Nichols, and actor, Michael Shannon for easily my favorite Q&A session of the entire festival.
Take Shelter is a hard film to describe. In presenting the film, Jeff Nichols said that it is very much a snapshot of the state of the United States economically which took me by surprise at first. After watching it, I very much agree.
Curtis (Michael Shannon) and his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and their young, deaf daughter live in a blue collar town in Ohio. Curtis works at a quarry, or something like that, and Samantha sells pillows at flea markets to make ends meet. The film begins with Curtis having a dream where there is a storm rolling in and the rain is thick, like motor oil. His dreams get more and more bizarre, and he takes them as being prophetic. We soon learn that his family has a history of mental illness, so we are left wondering what is really happening.
With the mindset of America’s economic turmoil over the last 5 years, it’s very easy to connect some dots to certain things in the film. Even without having that seed planted, you can easily side with Curtis as he worries about the future. While Curtis’ dreams are extreme, they are easy to relate to in most ways.
During the dream sequences, the entire theater of 1600 people was holding their breath. After reality picked back up there was always an audible sigh because the dreams are incredibly tense, verging on a horror movie. In fact, Jeff Nichols would go on to say that The Shining was one of Take Shelter’s main influences. I cannot recommend this movie enough and it likely rewards multiple viewings. In fact, as soon as the lights came up, I got on my phone and ordered a copy of the Blu-Ray on Amazon.
As for the Q&A session, it’s very hard to do justice in describing it. Jeff Nichols is new to directing, but I truly believe he is the next Christopher/Jonathan Nolan wrapped into one. He has huge potential, and I am going to be tracking down his first film, Shotgun Stories, very soon. Michael Shannon, who is one of my favorite actors currently working, was surprisingly profound and funny. If there is one Q&A session that you stream, please let it be this one (the link is below), but be warned there will be spoilers if you haven’t seen the film yet.
After the Q&A session, we stuck around to try and meet Michael Shannon…and we did! Please ignore my half-smile (I’m on the left) and Julian’s look like he just woke up. I guess we were both so excited that we couldn’t control our facial expressions.
Michael Shannon is a very nice guy considering there were about two dozen of us following him around trying to get pictures with him and the poor guy was just trying to leave…But I regret nothing.
As for Take Shelter…
I give it 5 out of 5.
Some interesting Ebertfest links: