This review was originally published on Pol Culture.
Take Shelter, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, is a potent, affecting film, but ultimately a disappointing one. Michael Shannon gives a richly felt performance as a working-class Ohio man who is faced with the onset of clinical mental illness. It begins to manifest itself in a series of nightmares: oil raining from the sky, assaults from loved ones, and apocalyptic storms. But he cannot shake the dreams after waking, and he becomes increasingly obsessed with expanding and outfitting the tornado shelter in his backyard. The film doesn’t once flinch from the real-life consequences of the character’s behavior. Nichols and Shannon take the viewer inside his terror at his psychological decline> Much of the narrative's power comes from watching him gradually undermine the various pillars of his life, including his relationships with work, friends, and family. The film’s major flaw is that it is far more intelligent than imaginative. The hallucinatory dream sequences aside, the picture feels trapped in the mundane. Nichols seems far more concerned with evoking pathos than finding poetry or catharsis in the story. The film is harrowing, but it is not especially edifying. There’s just too much angst and not enough artistry. One may feel compelled to leave before it is over. The luminous Jessica Chastain is a forceful, grounded presence as the Shannon character's wife.