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Take Shelter

Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols, 2011) -

So I just had possibly the most profound viewing experience of my entire life.

It's weird, because I've seen this movie before. The first time I saw it, before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, it was with my parents and one of my sisters. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't blown away either. I simply didn't connect with it all that much. By the second viewing I had been diagnosed, and I loved it. It became a favorite. To me, it was a fascinating but overall ambiguous movie, rather than a tale about mental illness. Lately, however, I've been thinking about it, and how it works really well as a straightforward narrative about schizophrenia. It might not spell everything out, but you can interpret everything to fit that narrative easily.

For example, the ending. I almost want to criticize the film right now for its ending, because I could tell my mom - who usually goes for Hollywood type stuff - was absolutely loving it until the ending, which confused her a bit. But on a personal level, I think it's the perfect ending. I believe the ending is a metaphor that Sam is part of his illness now - in the sense that, she's sticking by his side and is going to care for him. I love this. Sam is top three characters of all-time for me (as Curtis is) because she sticks by Curtis's side throughout the film. That's strong. To me, the greatest thing about this film is that theme, that lesson, that when someone has mental illness, the best treatment you can give them is to surround them with caring people who will stick by them through thick and thin. Samantha is the representation of that lesson. But she's also a fully developed, realistic female character unto herself.

So I watched it again with my mother and father tonight. It was incredibly moving. I nearly broke down, I almost wanted to leave at some scenes. It was hard to watch because a lot of it brought back bad memories of my own mental breakdown. That said, one of the things I like about the film is that it reminds me that people with mental illness are all unique with their own individual experiences dealing with the illness. Curtis's mental breakdown, despite some similarities and mostly the same overall sense of confusion, is very different from what mine was. For some reason, this actually makes me feel closer to the character, because it makes him a separate individual who is nonetheless dealing with the same stuff I dealt with.

Take Shelter is an incredibly, profoundly moving film for me on a deeply personal level, and I now regard it as my favorite film of all-time.