About an American working man played by Michael Shannon, his name is Curtis. He has premonitory dreams, or thinks he has. He tries to warn people of an impending storm and flood. The visions damage his marital and working relationships, especially when he builds a shelter in his garden. He suspects he may be mentally ill, paranoia and schizophrenia run in his family. There is a storm and he and his family take shelter. Later they are at the coast and they all see something…..
This is a well done psychological thriller, if a little slow moving. It cleverly manipulates our suspicions that he may not be mentally ill since he seems to have some insight into his possible mental condition. Here we have mental illness that can endow its sufferer with shamanistic powers. We expect some kind of objective validation for his dreams and waking visions. He sees his wife in an enigmatic pose, furniture rises up and is suspended, he is attacked by his dog and wakes up to feel real pain. Watching an American family disintergrate has become one of the blood sports of choice among film goers, it can be gripping because of what they have to lose. We follow the familiar trajectory of marital discord, job loss and alienation from friends. In this case, the visions cause embarrassment, unemployment, and increasing dysfunctionality. When the storm really does hit, you feel that he has been vindicated but maybe not. Does his wife follow him into the shelter to humour him or is the storm really a big threat? This is almost a Twilight Zone moment and the film draws it out. At the end you feel that he might get the endorsement from nature that we suspected. This is the sort of role that Nicholas Cage gets, so it is nice to see a lesser known actor playing the lead. Jessica Chastain plays his wife dealing with domestic and natural upheaval, er, like she did in Tree of Life. The acting is pretty convincing and their response to their predicament is well observed. The husband is like a Cassandra whose warnings are ignored, and he is also like Noah trying to deal with an impending flood in the face of indifference and ridicule. I wonder if Michael Fish has watched this film (Fish is the meteorologist who in the late ’80s got a forecast spectacularly wrong). This film seems to be saying that we can ultimately only rely on ourselves when finance, government, or nature go wrong. It’s easy to knock away the everyday supports. A story with a moral to it.