I used to love chatting when I was in school, and by that I mean talking in class. I spent several years talking about TV programmes, films, and other bullshit when I should have been paying attention to the teacher. This resulted in my taking home many a report card that informed my parents that I had plenty of potential (like every kid I suppose) but that I wasn’t living up to it as I was unable to shut my gob. Now, years later, I lament that wasted potential, especially early in the morning when I’m getting up to drag my arse to work, like a pleb…
Shelter is one of those little known movies that has a couple of reasonable actors in that you occasionally encounter late at night on some obscure TV channel that is surprising because it’s so much better than you expect. The film starts off quietly enough, building the idea of Cara Harding being a doctor with a very strong set of beliefs, whose very good at her job. Things move on into the story of Adam and his potential issues. Once he’s introduced a couple of obvious plot points are thrown in your face a little, like the multiple personalities and it does take a little while to get past that and into the juicer supernatural elements. Once things get a little more sinister Shelter develops into a nice little horror movie.
Julianne Moore is perfectly believable in the lead as the strait-laced psychiatrist who has gotten into a professional rut of sorts by being good at what she does by conforming with the accepted ideas in her field. A chunk of the film is given over to how Cara Harding is good, but not brilliant, and her character serves as a metaphor for the entire film as it is surprisingly better than you’d think, but still had room to be more.
Jonathan Rhys Myers puts in a performance that’s far better than you’d expect from him, but that’s only because he’s usually so shit in films (as anyone who saw him in Mission Impossible 3 can tell you). His efforts do wobble when he has to put on accents and mannerisms he’s not totally comfortable with and I can only imagine that directors around the world must hate his natural accent as they always seem to prefer to hear him putting on a dodgy American one, even though he’s brutal at it. Once you get used to the noise emanating from him in Shelter however he’s not that bad.
The pacing of the first half of the film is a little slow but this is made up for the second bit, where witches and strange mountain folk are introduced properly. The supernatural elements are handled well, and the only really big disappointment is the scene where everything is explained using a film allegedly made in the later part of the nineteenth century that just looks too damn modern to be that old.
Shelter is a surprising film, but sadly it left a big chunk of its potential unfulfilled.
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