Living on the edge of town is Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon), a seemingly a relatively stable man working in construction. As of late things have not been quite normal for Curtis, starting off with the motor-oil like rain, and re-occurring nightmares that transcend into his everyday life. One of his nightmares involved the family dog attacking him, and when he woke up the pain continued throughout the day. In secrecy, Curtis built a dog-yard for the back without telling his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and their hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart). In the midst of the nightmares, he has a strong feeling that there will be a terrible storm coming, often hearing thunder-strikes that no one else seems to notice. As things begin to get worse for Curtis as his family becomes concerned with his health and his obsession with cleaning out an old storm shelter.
Right off the bat, it’s established that things are foreshadowing a major storm but is it really going to happen? As the story carries on we learn that his mother has the mental illness of schizophrenia. There are certain instances where we believe he may be ill himself, as he sees birds forming all these formations in the sky, or waking up drenched in sweat from nightmares. It’s brilliant film-making from director Jeff Nichols (Mud) creating this ominous atmosphere. Nichols was able to perfectly blend Curtis’dreams with reality. Clever cuts were used to not separate the two perceptions, but allowing for the nightmares to seem real and to bring out a force of intensity and suspicion. It is clear that Curtis’ intentions are to keep his family protected, but he also has to make the step to protect himself from these terrible dreams.
Michael Shannon gives a powerful performance. He has a lot of emotions that he has to express, and he executes them brilliantly; most notably his explosion at the community benefit dinner. Jessica Chastain was great her too, this is only the second time I’ve seen her in a film, the former being The Tree of Life, but she plays the perfect mother. Something about her presence makes me feel like she’s the glue holding families together. Tova Stewart is hearing-impaired in real life, not just the movie and She didn’t have much to do but she looked comfortable with acting.
I really liked the connection Curtis had with his daughter Hannah. You could tell that he loved her, but felt disconnected from her due to the hearing deficiency. He struggled to learn and remember the sign language, because he was working frequently. In his nightmares I noticed Hannah was usually involved and he had fears of being able to keep her safe. This brought up extreme tension when he was alone with his daughter in real life, for the fear that something bad was going to happen. Curtis was also distant from his wife Samantha, not telling he what was going on, and taking out big loans behind her back to fund his projects. All this suspense building really drives the film forwards. So with the suspense built up and the intense sequences scatted throughout the film I can say I was very pleased with the ending. The character arc that Curtis was on was set up nicely, but I didn’t fully see the end coming. My reaction was the kind where you sit there for a moment thinking “what did I just watch?”.
Overall: I saw this film as such, Stephen King’s horror meets a real-life doomsday pepper, and Terrence Malick’s long lost brother was given the opportunity to film it all. As I mentioned many times above the suspense in this movie is approached with great direction. Shannon is able to bring out a strong performance; and alongside Chastain is enough to make the film worth watching. The editing & cinematography compliment the film well. Surprised that I never heard of how scary this film can be at times, so that gave the film that extra boost into being great.
RATING: ★★★★½ / ★★★★★
Dir. Jeff Nichols
IMDb 7.4/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 92%
Won Saturn Award – Best Actor, Best Writing
Won Critics Week Grand Prize
Won LAFCA, NFSC, NYFCC Award – Best Supporting Actress
“You think I’m crazy? Well, listen up, there’s a storm coming like nothing you’ve ever seen, and not a one of you is prepared for it.”