Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Nichols’

3rd December
written by Mad Cow

Rating: R for language

Mad Cow’s rating: 3 ½ cowbells

Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) lives in a small Ohio town with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain, The Help, Tree of Life) and his deaf daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart). He begins to have terrible nightmares both horrible in themselves but also portending disaster. A skilled worker who mines salt, he is taciturn by nature but made even more so by his fear. In addition to his dreams bad things, such as oily rain, begin to happen by day as well. He thinks disaster is on its way, but then again he may be succumbing to his mother’s mental illness. Shot in Ohio, this powerful movie is the second feature film of writer/director Jeff Nichols. The cinematography alone is spectacular.

Played brilliantly by Shannon, Curtis is an Eastwood-esque character, with an intensely fierce demeanor. Shannon’s eyes seem to to be looking through you. Curtis tries to do what’s best, exploring the idea of mental illness while also building an elaborate tornado shelter in his yard, to Samantha’s exasperation. Not knowing what’s real and what isn’t, he’s hedging his bets, so to speak, but painfully indirectly.  Bit by bit he tries the patience and understanding of those all around him, including his friend Dewart (Shea Whigham), his boss, his brother. Finally, he explodes, so to speak.

The film, slowly drawn, is amazingly suspenseful even as all of the evidence points in the direction of Curtis’ insanity. We feel his pain and at the same time that of Samantha, who does everything in her power to sooth Curtis and take care of her daughter at the same time. Her character well delineated, Samantha isn’t your typical wifey even though her tasks would suggest that she is (She makes eggs for breakfast every day and sells needlecraft at a local flea market). She’s simply responsible and kind but not at all stupid.

The dialogue is always spot on, in a movie that could have slipped into the mundane easily. One wishes that Curtis could emote more, but it’s not in his character. Samantha is strong when she has to be, a woman who loves her family but is not limitless in her sympathy. It’s convenient that their daughter’s malady is deafness as Hannah is then not privy to their conversations but in need of complicated and expensive medical care, sabotaged by her father’s meltdown.

Sitting in the theatre, I was constantly in suspense right up until the less-than-satisfying ending, in awe of the filming and impressed with the acting. Creating suspense is an incredible talent, conveying a feeling in the audience that one has to know what happens next and can’t wait. Caring and interest are essential. This film is a fascinating thriller of sorts. And yet, the entire time I wished I were in a different movie altogether.

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