Psychological drama has language, mental health themes.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Take Shelter is a psychological drama with themes around mental health, occasional strong language, and trauma. The story centers on Curtis (Michael Shannon), whose life becomes disrupted by a series of nightmares and hallucinations that leads him to believe an apocalyptic storm is incoming. Curtis' wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), endures his behavior but it also takes its toll on her and Curtis' work life. Their daughter, Hannah, is deaf and is played by Tova Stewart, who is a deaf actor. Both Curtis and Samantha use sign language to communicate with Hannah. Violence is infrequent and not graphic, although Curtis' nightmares and visions are traumatic and in some cases recall violent incidents. There are also a couple of minor violence confrontations that include a slap to the face and a scuffle that involves punches and kicks. A couple of accidents and other incidents result in blood being drawn from minor injuries. Language is also rare but does feature in some heated arguments and exchanges, with a few instances of "f--k" and "s--t." Characters are seen drinking and on one occasion it would appear someone is driving under the influence. Curtis is also seen taking prescription medication to help with his condition.
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What's the Story?
TAKE SHELTER follows a man called Curtis (Michael Shannon) who becomes increasingly disturbed by nightmarish visions about a threat to his family and home.
Is It Any Good?
Writer-director Jeff Nichols won international acclaim for this film about a hardworking everyman whose consuming fear of an oncoming storm threatens more than just his way of life. At the center of Take Shelter, Nichols' regular collaborator Shannon expertly conveys character Curtis' unease, which slowly escalates into something much more unsettling and threatens to cost him his health, job, and family. It's an interesting set-up propelled by plenty of fine performances, but the movie never quite solves the problem of how surreal it wants Curtis' condition to be. What we're left with is an uneven mix of nervous breakdown and prophecy. Depending on interpretation, some viewers might also feel short-changed by the finale.
There's a sense that Take Shelter symbolizes the mounting hardships faced by working-class communities, and if so then it remains timely since its 2011 release. But at the same time it feels strangely directionless, with no sense of what lies ahead for its characters. All of which makes it a bold and difficult movie to categorize by genre, but also a difficult one to enjoy.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Take Shelter portrayed mental health? Did you think it was a realistic portrayal? How was Curtis treated by others? Why is it important to talk about mental health?
Discuss the strong language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?
Hannah is a deaf character played by a deaf actor. Why is it important that deaf roles go to deaf actors? Why does representation in the media matter?
In what ways did communication play a part in the story? Why is it important to communicate openly and be honest with loved ones? How can I use media to help my kid's communication skills?
Talk about Curtis' visions and nightmares. Did you find these scary? What do you think they might have symobolized, in some cases?
- In theaters: September 30, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: February 14, 2012
- Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham
- Director: Jeff Nichols
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language
- Last updated: February 1, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
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Poignant coming-of-age tale has some edgy content.
For kids who love psychological drama
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