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Take Shelter: Worth entering

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TAKE SHELTER

***

DIRECTED BY Jeff Nichols

STARS Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain

Winner of two awards at this year's Cannes Film Festival and certain to earn Michael Shannon some serious Oscar consideration, Take Shelter takes place in a spacious, wide-open Midwestern region but feels constrictive and claustrophobic at every turn. That's the intent of writer-director Jeff Nichols, who largely leaves it up to viewers to decide whether his film is a metaphor for the feelings of paranoia, persecution and dread that grip this nation in modern times or merely a story about a man who might be mentally unbalanced. Curtis (Shannon), a blue-collar worker blessed with a loving wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter (Tova Stewart), starts having dreadful dreams in which he's attacked by those closest to him (his spouse, his best friend, his dog) in the middle of a nasty storm. These nocturnal nightmares are soon joined by daytime hallucinations, and Curtis has to decide whether he's turning into a paranoid schizophrenic like his institutionalized mother (Kathy Baker) or whether he's having premonitions involving the end of the world. No one knows for sure — least of all audience members — and while the story is such that Nichols could have ended it in a haze of ambiguity, he wisely elects to commit to a particular outcome. I of course won't reveal any particulars, but let's just say that Rod Serling would have been proud.

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