Jeff Nichols may not be a familiar name, but no young writer-director – he’s 32 – is better poised to make a leap from the unknown. His second film, Take Shelter, which Sony Pictures Classics will release on Friday, is simply one of the smartest, most gripping indies to come along in a while.
The film’s concept is attention-getting and zeitgeist-y: the apocalypse may be coming. (I dare you to look at weather reports and stock market numbers and say it’s not possible.) But that theme is filtered through the uneasy mind of a man – played with toned-down intensity by the terrific Michael Shannon – who may be imagining it all, and whose relationship with his wife (Jessica Chastain) is as delicately wrought as any in an intimate drama.
Shannon also starred in Nichols’ quirky, impressive first film, Shotgun Stories, worth rediscovering. Take Shelter arrives with a higher profile: it won the Critics Week Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. And back in his native Arkansas, Nichols has just started shooting MUD, a drama with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.
His career is in great shape, but as Nichols discusses in our video chat, there’s still plenty of free-floating fear in the world. While making Take Shelter he worried about fear fatigue, that by the time the movie arrived people might be worn out by the onslaught of real-life environmental and economic disasters. No trouble on that front; his apocalypse is more potent a metaphor than ever.
Video edited by TAYLOR LEVY.