If recently you’ve had that unnerving sensation that the world is more than a little unsettled, that there is some end-of-the-world force looming, then you will understand the sentiment of this tale of a man battling the demons of his mind. Michael Shannon turns in a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination in this independent American film that very carefully pulls together elements from science fantasy, psychological thriller and intimate drama – building to a conclusion that has audiences on the edge of their seats. The film won the top prize from film critics at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is beginning to develop a strong following as we head to awards season in Hollywood.
Shannon plays Curtis – a thoughtful working man who cares deeply about his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and young daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) who is deaf. When he starts having apocalyptic dreams, Curtis at first thinks he can ignore what they might mean, but as they bleed into his everyday life – with severe implications for all his relationships – he begins to wonder if he is sane or the only person seeing what is really going on in the world.
What is so special about this film is the delicacy with which writer/director Jeff Nichols evokes a sense of unease with his visual story telling. With a wary look from Shannon, a stunning widescreen view of the power and awe of nature, or a simple reference to lay-offs and tough economic times, Nichols taps deeply into current social concerns about the future of humanity, the way we live, and what is happening on our planet. There is nothing in Curtis’ world that can be ultimately relied upon for peace of mind – not even his own sense of self – and he is overwhelmed by the need to do something to make a difference. Jessica Chastain – surely on her way to becoming one of the most in demand actresses in the world – matches Shannon’s superb performance, allowing us to witness Curtis’ journey from mildly safer territory.
Adam Stone’s cinematography is sublime and original music from David Wingo adds to the evocative mood of approaching doom, leaving you wondering – like Curtis – whether you can, or should, do anything about it.