I never paid much attention to directors before Jeff Nichols. I started working through his movies after a friend of mine invited me to a speaking event with Nichols and his frequent composer, David Wingo. The purity with which he spoke about his craft and calling of filmmaking left an electric impression on me. I respected the person before I fell in love with his movies.
Take Shelter remains my favorite film of his. I don’t think there’s any other movie I’ve tracked with so closely throughout my first watch. Every moment of the film, I felt exactly what the protagonist was feeling: fear, anxiety, self-doubt, paranoia, shame, panic and eroding dread. Nichols has a gift for writing grounded characters who are far from eloquent, and yet through their actions and the few words they do speak, they tell you everything you need to know. His frequent writing advice is to give your character a job and you see the wisdom of that clearly here in the story of a blue collar worker tormented by a self-destructing burden to provide for and protect his family. The role is embodied perfectly, of course, by the quiet magnetism of Michael Shannon. I have so much more to share about this one (for example, the surreal elements) but for fear of robbing you of a thrilling first watch, I implore you to check it out yourself - and please, go in blind.
P.S. After rewatching it this weekend, I also realized how refreshing it is that the protagonist actually tries to find help instead of me just yelling "GO TO THERAPY!" at the screen lol