OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

The lights will come on again!

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The ByTowne is now closed. But there's good news!

After the pandemic has been brought under control,
new management will take over the space and the ByTowne will re-open.

It may take a while for pandemic restrictions to be eased enough
that a feasible number of patrons can be allowed to watch a movie again,
but the new owners are working towards that day.

To stay informed about developments, subscribe to our free e-newsletter.
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Take Shelter

Winner ~ Grand Prize Critics' Week & FIPRESCI Award ~ Cannes 2011

Standing outside his small-town Ohio home, his wife and child busy preparing breakfast inside, Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) looks up at the ominous slate-gray sky in the first scene of Take Shelter. The clouds open, raining down oily piss-coloured droplets. It’s end-of-days weather, a phenomenon that only Curtis seems to witness, and the first of many private apocalyptic visions to come. Blue-collar worker Curtis is haunted by one of the looming terrors of the 21st century: financial ruin. This unarticulated fear triggers Curtis’s mental illness, a pervasive dread that Curtis can define only as ‘something that’s not right.’

Poster for Take ShelterThe protagonist in writer-director Jeff Nichols’s second film is, however, unquestionably a stand-up guy, a devoted 35-year-old paterfamilias. Supplementing Curtis’s modest income with the handmade notions she sells at Saturday-afternoon flea markets, wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) stays at home to look after their deaf six-year-old daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart), whose upcoming cochlear-implant surgery would be unthinkable without Curtis’s insurance benefits, soon to kick in.

The LaForche family is a loving, tight-knit trio until Curtis’s gradual unraveling begins to chip away at their stability. Remaining tight-lipped about his nightmares and hallucinations, he begins to alienate family and friends over his obsession with canned goods, gas masks, and the storm shelter in the backyard, which he has expanded to a subterranean labyrinth.

As Curtis, Michael Shannon adroitly falls apart; although Curtis’s night terrors cause him to wake up gasping for air, wet the bed, and bleed from the mouth, these dramatic incidents are followed by the silent confusion of a man too ashamed, for most of the film, to admit to his wife that he’s losing his mind.

Although Shannon appears in almost every scene of Take Shelter, Chastain, with much less screen time, makes just as strong an impact. The actress, who seems to have starred in at least one movie each week since the release of The Tree Of Life, is, by necessity, often in reactive mode here, whether trying to make sense of her husband’s frightening behaviour or offering compassion when he finally explains why he has been frenziedly digging up the backyard. She sees something, she says something: Chastain grounds the film by listening and responding, making the film as much a portrait of a marriage – of sacrifice, compromise, and, most significantly, boundary-establishing – as it as a portrayal of madness in crazy times. Samantha might love her husband unconditionally, but she refuses to share his psychosis – at least until the ambiguous ending.

– Melissa Anderson, The Village Voice
 

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