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Take Shelter


Stars: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Kathy Baker, Shea Whigham, Tova Stewart, Katy Mixon, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Natasha Randall, Ron Kennard

Director: Jeff Nichols

Grimly foreboding but immensely overlong, this could have been a crackingly offbeat drama if told in about two-thirds of the time. Curtis (Shannon) earns a modest living working for a mining company. He's happily settled with Samantha (Chastain), in spite of financial pressures and ongoing problems surrounding their six-year-old daughter (Stewart) who's unable to speak or hear.

But Curtis, whose institutionalised mother (Baker) was diagnosed as schizophrenic in her thirties, has begun to have visions of strange phenomena involving birds and clouds, and have nightmares in which he and his daughter are savaged by their dog, or attacked by a menacing stranger.

He begins to construct a tsunami-proof shelter from a disused outside cellar, illegally borrowing tools from his work to do so - something that inevitably leads to the sack, and threatens his daughter's forthcoming operation.

Is he schizophrenic? Is he nuts? Is he trying to protect his family from impending disaster, or from himself? The ending is neatly contrived, if a bit ominous, but it takes an unconscionably long time getting there; you might do best getting a neighbour to wake you up for the last 30 minutes, although even that is a bit stretched at times.

Shannon is appropriately agonised and Chastain a promising new star who's destined to become very busy indeed. Brooding photography by Adam Stone sets a suitably unsettling tone.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: The Works (Sony Classics). Colour by deluxe.
122 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 24 Nov 2011