Take Shelter

This is what I wish church movies would and should be. Let’s put that out there to stick in the back of your mind. – So Tucker finally recommended a good movie to me. And after watching Take Shelter, I just want to talk about it. At first it was because of the movie and it’s story, which is timely and pressing. But after reading comments online about the movie, I have a whole new reason to love this film, which is apparently way off from other people. First things first – this is a movie that needs to be watched to remind you that story always trumps action/special effects. This is a disaster movie. But when you dig deeper, it is a meditation on mental illness and dealing/living with it. Past that, it is a very moving film centered on faith with one of the best depictions I have ever seen of a wife.

Here is the Netflix summary –

Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) stars in this Sundance-selected thriller as Curtis LaForche, a small-town family man who’s determined to protect his wife (Jessica Chastain) and deaf daughter (Tova Stewart) from impending disaster. Fueled by disturbing visions of a terrible storm, Curtis sets out to prepare for the future by building an impenetrable storm shelter in the safety of his own backyard.

The film is so much more than that. Curtis is tormented by dreams of an impending storm that will destroy humanity. And you watch him wrestle with the decision to act on these dreams because they seem so real and pressing. His reasoning for questioning his feelings is because his mother is a paranoid schizophrenic and it runs in the family. His daughter is recently deaf, and the family is struggling to get by in the economy. He has medical bills and a mortgage to pay for, and anything extra is a burden. You find he is deeply committed to his wife for reasons I won’t spoil. Before I get into spoilers you really should watch this movie. To know any more will dampen the impact of the film. This movie did more for me than The 10 Commandments ever could. Spoilers from here on out, because I can’t express my feelings without giving away everything –

I’m just assuming you have seen this movie by now. Curtis is plagued by visions of a storm that causes people to go crazy and will destroy everything in it’s path. I know it is supposed to be a comment on the economy and social agenda’s taking place right now with all of the lingering camera shots on the prices of items, but it feels like more of a pseudo rapture. I believe the storm is symbolic of judgement day, but instead of fire and brimstone, it’s a natural disaster testing mankind to see who is prepared. As religious as this sounds, there is only one reference to church in the whole movie, and the movie avoids any talk of God.

In all of these dreams/visions, Curtis is overwhelmed by the urge to take steps to prevent harm to his family and to build a fortress to protect them from the incoming storm and violence. To do this he starts spending money he doesn’t have, and starts shirking tasks and obligations to finish the shelter. And this is where one of my favorite parts comes into play. His wife, with all of the crap he has done based off of dreams, STICKS BY HIM. In a world of feminists and glorified individuality, she takes the path that is actually shunned in this time and age. It is so refreshing to see a marriage depicted on film that involves a couple working it out and finding common ground. She really does steal the show when she is on screen because you can feel all of the power she has inside of her over her husband, but continually lets him make his own decisions after she expresses what she wants. This type of relationship happens so little anymore, or at least is portrayed this way, that it feels refreshing to me. Her end scene out of the bunker really shows you how much she loves him and respects him. Her simple act of making him unlock the bunker illustrates that she will be there with him after all this, plus she lets him keep his dignity by doing so, so that they remain as equals in their relationship.

The other part that has bugged me about online comments about this film is the complete disregard for what, to me, was obviously God talking to Curtis. Everywhere I have read attributes his dreams or visions to psychic visions, or premonitions or a hallucinatory world based off of his supposed mental illness. I thought that this was just a straight up modern version of Noah’s Ark. God was guiding him to prepare for the proverbial flood, and he did. Along the way others scoffed at him, terminated relationships with him and belittled him. But he was diligent and ultimately might have saved his family because of it. That to me was more of a religious excitement or moving than almost any other religious movie out there. This felt like a true and reality based telling of what it would be like to act on your own promptings from God. I just loved that aspect.

As for the ending, I think they made it back to the shelter. I have heard others say that because of the doctor visit before the beach that the final scene was imagined in his mentally ill head. I call BS on that. I think the bigger commentary to me was that the world around him could only classify someone listening to dreams and promptings as mentally ill, and not a religious man. I don’t think he was mentally ill at all. I also like how he never went to church, but instantly knew what to do when guided by God. That really leaves the doors open to show that anyone is capable of hearing God, it’s just are you listening? I think his wife stayed by him because she was listening as well.

I know this is a long, incoherent ramble for a movie that hardly anyone has seen, but I just want to throw this out there in the hopes that maybe one more person will watch this and want to talk about it.

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