Friday, 25 November 2011

[521] Take Shelter (2011) Review

Unfortunately, a lot of personal distractions came up around the end of the London Film Festival, meaning I didn't get the chance to turn in my 'best of fest' write-ups. Thankfully, some of the the best films are coming out before the end of the year, so I get to review them 'properly'! With that in mind, here's my review of Take Shelter.

In the great big grab-bag of Hollywood movie tropes, there aren’t many as well-used or as long-serving as the protective father. 

Whether a plot contains disaster, alien invasion, or meddlesome terrorists, the bond between patriarch and family is enough to inspire great feats of heroism. These men - be they Tom Cruise’s loser divorcee in War Of The Worlds, Dennis Quaid’s scientist dad in The Day After Tomorrow, or even John McClane - are protagonists to rally behind, satisfying primal instincts to provide care, safety and shelter. 

While it may not seem like it at first, one of psychological drama Take Shelter’s major successes lies in its clever subversion of this trope, colliding the stock narrative conceit with a powerful psychological undertone.  

Construction worker Curtis LaForche lives a mundane, pleasant life with his wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter in rural Ohio, until he is plagued by terrible nightmares of a coming apocalypse. These visions are truly chilling, filled with portent and unsettling imagery of oil-slick rain, plagues of birds and aggressive, faceless antagonists. Convinced that such a storm is indeed brewing on the horizon, he becomes obsessed with building a shelter in his back yard, while expressing all of the destructive, anti-social and self-deceiving symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. 

Curtis’ motivation is to ensure the safety of his young family, but his reasoning is unsound. However, his is a character flaw that reflects backwards, casting the obsessive urges of the likes of John Matrix, Taken’s Bryan Mills or countless Harrison Ford characters in a whole new light. 

Those fathers knew best because they lived in uncomplicated worlds governed by simpler ideals. On the other hand, Curtis’ America faces its own economic apocalypse, in which a lost job not only threatens financial ruin for a family, but potential personal danger, without the safety net of medical insurance. And then there are the risky loans and scaremongering news reports of chlorine spills, which further chip away at the man’s authority over his own family’s well-being. 

Read the full article here.

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