Shelter Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein

Shelter Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein
Because most cinematic depictions of solipsism limit themselves to glib trajectories of embracing diversity or freeing oneself through external stimuli such as travel, it's refreshing to see a standard thriller suggest that socially acceptable rigidity in ideologue is psychologically problematic and emotionally limiting. It's just a shame that Shelter feels compelled to filter its allegory of annihilation anxiety simplification through faith, suggesting that scientific explanation is mere justification and wilful myopia. This misguided but insightful didactic is channelled through Psychiatrist Cara Jessup (Julianne Moore), a pragmatic doctor obsessed with explanations and cures who doesn't believe that Multiple Personality Disorder actually exists. Inevitably, her worldview is challenged by a patient with multiple personalities named Adam, David and Wesley (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), whose ability to write with both hands, occasionally demonstrate colour-blindness and physically vacillate between paraplegia and able-bodied movement leaves her perplexed, spawning a journey that involves Satan-worshipping mountain folk and a long-dead, songwriting Christian boy. Since this retread of the adult thriller formula is far more interested in its suggestion of restricted beliefs as the death of greater consciousness, the actual story suffers from increasingly erratic, convoluted explanations. It's also frequently expository and slow while trying to make clear a narrative that flips between several personalities, and stories, eventually coming to a conclusion that stretches the limits of audience investment. Still, many of the character-defining exchanges and Moore's sharp understanding of the core intent keeps things compelling, as does the professional, storyboarded sheen, which is conscious of spectator gaze and negative space. Some of the jump tactics, such as characters popping up unexpectedly behind doors and windows, come off as lame and cheap, given the mature nature of this identity parable, but help inject a bit of energy into what is essentially a slow moving mystery. Even if Rhys-Meyers occasionally overdoes it while jumping between wildly different, and obvious, characters (a Satanist, a Christian and a reclusive sociopath), Moore's dedication and a smarter-than-average script at least make this forgettable allegory serviceable and moderately appealing for most of its runtime, which is far more than most films currently at the Cineplex can say. The DVD includes only some interview snippets and B-roll footage, which isn't a surprise, given that this movie was basically buried and ignored. (eOne)