Something really bad is coming, an impending apocalypse and only Curtis (Michael Shannon) can see it on the horizon. His Mom was institutionalized after a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia when he was ten, however, so are his dreams a prophecy of the future or his own mental facilities starting to fail?
Films can get mired down in narrative backstory where passages end up boring and uninteresting, typically because the expository portions appear prior to us becoming engaged with the characters. Nichols nimbly avoids this time and again in Take Shelter with hints that daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) hasn’t always been deaf but with no explanation of what happened for her to lose her hearing. Her deafness is a metaphorical reflection of Curtis’ challenge with seeing and experiencing what really is happening around him rather than the troubled vision that plague him both awake and asleep.