A moving depiction of homelessness with a fearless lead performance by Jennifer Connelly…
It’s not easy to represent the subject of homelessness well. It’s one of those subjects which seems to so easily lend itself to insensitivity, cliché and well-meaning condescension. Thankfully then Paul Bettany’s debut directorial feature doesn’t fall into any of these easy traps, instead it delivers in all of the key areas with powerful lead performances, sharp writing and a present social consciousness which is felt but which never threatens to impede upon the story and turn the film into a soapbox. An argument could be made that the film attempts to take on too much with multiple dark and emotionally complex subjects being raised to explain the characters and their backstories, however I would argue that these (with one notable exception) only serve the story, enrich the characters and help to remind us of the many different routes which can lead to homelessness.
Anthony Mackie impresses in his role here, giving us a sensitive and intelligent performance that exceeds expectations and endears his character to us, despite one very hard to get past element to his backstory. He is however overshadowed by his costar Jennifer Connelly who delivers some of her very best work here as a wasting away drug addict who often looks painfully thin and nearly always emotionally broken. The film gains its heart from watching her try to rediscover her faith in other people. As the world’s possibilities begin to reemerge for her we are made aware, through her finely crafted performance, of how fragile a construct safety and trust really is.
I’m very pleased to be able to say that Bettany pulls it off here with a drama that is emotionally grounded and compelling to watch. His actors fare well under his direction and Shelter serves as an excellent first feature, suggesting a promising sidecareer for the actor turned director should he wish to pursue it.
Shelter was released today (11th December) in UK cinemas, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!