Last night, browsing through late-night offerings on television, Michael Shannon’s performance as a mentally-ill husband in “Take Shelter” (2011) caught my eye. If you’re a Michael Shannon fan, as I am, you’ll want to see it.
We turned over to watch it, and I was reminded that Shannon’s co-star in this intense psychological study was (drum roll, please): Jessica Chastain. It seemed only fitting that I re-watch this film, which I thoroughly enjoyed when it was new eleven years ago (when Jessica was 33).
In fact, when I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Shannon in Chicago at the premiere of Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” I asked Michael Shannon what his favorite film role had been. Rather than dodging the question (a question which is a little like asking, “Which of your children is your favorite?”) he immediately said “Take Shelter.”
In the film, Shannon’s character had a mother who was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic at about the same age that he is, in the film. His character is obsessed with the thought that a tornado is going to devastate the town, his house, and his family, and he is taking steps to put in a below-ground storm shelter. There is a climactic scene at a school cafeteria when Shannon mesmerizes as he erupts with emotion, warning the townsfolk that they are totally unprepared for what he sees as a coming apocalypse.
Of course, by then, he has been fired from his job for having taken equipment from the construction sites he worked on to build his underground tornado shelter. His wife’s patience, what with coping with her husband’s obsession and with their young deaf daughter, seems about to collapse.
The film has a somewhat ambiguous ending, but Shannon’s performance was dynamite, and it is safe to say that Jessica Chastain’s performance as his long-suffering but devoted wife helped. (I met Chastain at the premiere of Liv Ullman’s directorial debut of the film “Miss Julie.” Her co-star in that film was Colin Farrell.)
Jessica Chastain is now 44 years old. She seems to be moving towards directing, as articles suggest that it was her idea to put together the concept for her latest film “355.” Unfortunately, the female buddy genre, which seemed fresh, creative and new when suggested in 2018, had been co-opted by 2022. “355” is currently playing theaters, only.