TIFF week 2: Shelter

I was quite excited to see Shelter as it starred Anthony Mackie. The line up to the Winter Garden Theatre seemed long, but moved quickly as the crowd was ushered in to the 3rd (or 4th?) floor theatre. Upon walking in, you were greeted by the ostentatious interior design- the faux? vines and flowers, and the painted ceiling. I sat next to an older gentleman and a woman. We talked a little about the films we had seen- he said Whiplash was his favourite and might win the People’s choice awards as it had in the Sundance film festival. He also mentioned how it was funny that Martin Scorsese showed up to talk at a free screening (of a movie that had been restored) when Revenge of the Green Dragons had just screened beforehand, of which he is an executive producer.

The stage had a TIFF podium on it, so I wasn’t surprised that Paul Bettany (the director) gave an introductory speech. Unfortunately, neither Jennifer nor Anthony could make it, which I guess might’ve contributed to the fact that there was no Q&A after the movie had screened.

Review: Shelter was too focused on aesthetics rather than plot. When the film started with nothing wider than a headshot and a confusing title screen (I felt like I was watching a TV show with its opening consisting of “interesting” transitions), I knew I would have some problems with the film. On an aesthetics level, I do appreciate shallow depth of field and focus of the camera, but the film overused it and I even wanted to focus the camera for them sometimes.

The film started off with a focus on Tahir, then 1/4 of the way in, transitioned into Hannah’s “story”. I never really got into their connection, which seemed to be made of prolonged stares (which was another thing that bugged me- I get that a look is supposed to transmit a hidden message but this can be overused). I didn’t like that most of the film was centered around Hannah’s plights and development. I wanted to know more about Tahir (ie. when did he learn to play the drums, etc.) apart from his “dark history” canned in 2 sentences.

The music wasn’t bad, but the repetitive melody was irksome in the beginning-middle, because, again, it was overused. I did like some elements of repetition, such as the benchs along the waterfront, and the shelter under the bridge.

The only stylistic choice I thought really worked was the silence during a pivotal event.

I wanted to like the film better. It was raw, it was real, but it was dressed up in a way I didn’t understand. 2.5-3/5


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