This month for my blind spot pick I watched the film Take Shelter by the great indie director Jeff Nichols. I have loved to liked all of the movies from Nichols I’ve seen including Midnight Special and Mud, but I had never gotten around to seeing this unique entry from 2011.
Take Shelter tells the story of a man named Curtis played by Michael Shannon. He lives in Oklahoma, and one day he starts seeing visions of an apocalyptic storm that is attacking his family. As these dreams and visions become more alarming Curtis becomes more unglued. He becomes fixated on building a tornado shelter for his family and can’t understand why everyone in the town isn’t as concerned about the upcoming storm as he is.
His wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and deaf daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) try to be supportive but struggle to understand Curtis and deal with each step of the mania. It was so nice to see Chastain as the almost ethereal mother again. She is so good at that role and we haven’t seen it in a long time (of course she will be forever remembered as the mother in The Tree of Life, which was also released in 2011).
Take Shelter definitely has a languid pacing I struggled with particularly when we weren’t in the dream sequences and it can feel repetitive (it’s pretty much just dream, mania, dream mania etc) but it also builds tension well and the performances and film-making are so good it’s hard to not recommend it. Adam Stone does a wonderful job with the cinematography leaving the viewer confused if the storms are really happening or if it is another dream.
The movie is also a bit confused with what it is trying to say. Is it talking about mental health care? Is it talking about religion? Is it talking about family? Mania? I’m not sure to be honest, which I guess you could see as a good or bad thing depending on your taste in movies. On one hand I like the ambiguity but other moments I wanted more clarity.
All that said, I would definitely recommend watching Take Shelter for the incredible dream sequences and the great performances. It will definitely leave you thinking and there’s something to be said for that experience.
Have you seen Take Shelter? What did you think of it?
Today I saw the new film from director Jeff Nichols called Midnight Special. Despite its trashy sounding title, it turns out to be a pretty good little scifi film. Like so many quality films these days some will find it boring but I thought it was great.
Midnight Special tells the story of a boy named Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberner) who at the start has been abducted by his father Roy (Michael Shannon) and friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton). But this is no ordinary boy. He has supernatural powers that allow him to communicate with other life forms and lands. His eyes grow strong with blue light and he overtakes buildings and homes.
He is so strong in fact that he has inspired a cult that follows his words like scripture and honors him like a God, which he kind of is in this case. The leader of the cult is named Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepherd) and he and his followers have been tracking dates Alton gives them and on an upcoming one something special is to occur. This is what inspires Roy and Lucas to take Alton from the cult.
At the same time the cult gets called in mass to a high school to be interviewed by the FBI, who are also doing their own investigation into Alton and his powers. The lead investigator is Paul Sevier (Adam Driver).
We also meet Altdon’s mother played by Kirsten Dunst in a very heartfelt believable performance- best I’ve seen from her in years.
Midnight Special is a bit of a slow burn but it builds a believable story that gives you time to contemplate what is happening. I liked all of the characters including Driver as the FBI agent (although I admit getting Kylo Ren out of my head was hard at first!). Michael Shannon is tremendous as Roy who is desperate, practical and honest at the same time. Joel Edgerton as Lucas is a new believer in Alton but fresh with conviction. They are all great.
What I liked most about this movie is the way it dives into belief and what that means for our choices. Alton is a figure of hope for all different kinds of people. For the cult who have turned him into a God, for the disaffected who still love him, for the new believers who are in awe, and for those like Sevier who believe because they have seen great things, he has impacted all of their lives in a powerful way.
All good scifi should be about something and I think this film passes the test because belief changes all of us in one way or another. Belief can even break your heart on occasion.
It’s also so beautifully filmed by Jeff Nichols and has great performances throughout. Think of it as ET without the laughs!