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“Take Shelter,” Reviewed

“Take Shelter,” Reviewed (photo)

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Curtis (Michael Shannon), the central figure of Jeff Nichols’ powerful, enigmatic drama “Take Shelter,” is living in the grip of overpowering dread. An Ohio man with a wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), a little girl, Hannah (Tova Stewart), who’s deaf, a construction job and a house on the edge of a field, Curtis is plagued with dreams of apocalypse, of swarming black birds, giant storms rolling in from the skyline, thunder and lightning, a thick rain that brings madness to anyone caught out in it. These visions are so powerful he can’t shake them when awake — after one in which his frenzied dog bites his arm, he can’t bring himself to trust the animal anymore in the light of day, and ends up banishing him to a fenced in area in the backyard.

Curtis has a family history of schizophrenia, but “Take Shelter” leaves it ambiguous as to how much of his disintegration is due to mental illness and how much is just due to a larger unease and instability that seems symptomatic of time in which we all live. Curtis’ life is neither radically comfortable nor precarious, but it’s beset on all sides by possible threats and hazards. There’s Hannah’s condition, which appears to be a relatively recent development, and the possibility on the horizon of her getting a cochlear implant, but there’s also the mortgage, the job, their health insurance, their savings, their bank loan. The obvious fragility of the life Curtis and his family have carved out for themselves seems to be wearing away at him and manifesting in these overblown, frightening hallucinations, which aren’t distinguished in the way that they’re shot from reality except in the tension and anxiety with which they unfold.

Shannon is a maestro when it comes to playing mentally unbalanced characters, and Curtis offers him an embarrassment of riches in his psychological and physical breakdown, floundering under the weight of his growing distress, his desire to hide his troubles from his wife and his helpless fixation on the storm cellar behind their house, which he begins to build out as a kind of survivalist fallout shelter, with food, beds and ventilation. He understands that he looks unwell to everyone around him, but is also utterly convinced of the impending destruction of the world, and given that we’re partial to his visions, to the beautifully, disturbingly realized storms on the horizon, we understand his distress like no one else. “Take Shelter” builds to potent climax that suggests it’s impossible to live normally without letting go of these types of misgivings, but also acknowledges how irresistible they are. These days, who doesn’t feel, and fear, a storm building on the horizon?

“Take Shelter” will be released by Sony Classics later this year.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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