Starring: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Frances Conroy
Distributor: Icon Films
Runtime: 112 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
Shelter has a very gentle sound about it. But, that is not the case for this psychological thriller which veers into what is often called ‘supernatural’ elements with some touches of horror. There have been a number of films about, like the 1997 Denzel Washington film, Fallen, where the souls of a person can migrate from one human carrier to another. The human carrier provides a shelter.
The film opens with a psychiatrist, Caroline, Julianne Moore, explaining to a committee hearing an appeal for a murderer to be granted a stay of execution that she does not believe in cases of multiple personalities – she says it is a feature of sensationalist Hollywood movies! When she gets home, her father, Jeffrey de Munn, whisks her off to meet his latest case. He is played very effectively by Jonathan Rhys Meyers – and she discovers that, if he doesn’t have multiple personalities inside, then there do seem to be several people in there. And he displays quite different performances for each of them as well as mimicking the speaking manner of some of those sheltering.
So far, so familiar. However, God (who actually tops the list of those who are thanked explicitly in the final credits) becomes an important theme. Despite her husband having been brutally murdered by a mugger on the way home from church on Christmas eve, the psychiatrist still believes in God. Her young daughter and her father find they cannot. This becomes important in terms of who become carriers for the migrating soul. This all leads Caroline out into the Pennsylvania backwoods and strange communities with odd religious beliefs, bizarre practices and alleged witchcraft.
The visual style of the film is dark and brooding. It is directed by two Swedish directors – who certainly do not feel any obligation to provide a Hollywood ending.
Many reviewers dismissed Shelter as hokum. Of course, it is hokum, psychological and religious. But, despite critical opinion, some of us (this reviewer included) enjoy the speculations, twists and turns of this kind of hokum.
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