Shelter: Film Review

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I knew going into Shelter that it wasn’t going to be a barrel of laughs, but I still wanted to check it out to see if Paul Bettany makes a solid directorial debut and if working with his wife Jennifer Connelly was a good idea.

Connelly is Hannah, a homeless heroin addict who accidentally steals the jacket of Tahir (Anthony Mackie), a fellow vagrant. They form a bond when Tahir stops her from a suicide attempt, and it eventually blossoms into a relationship.

That synopsis makes it sound like a ‘triumph in the face of adversity’ story but it is not sweet. In fact it is really depressing. They both have horrifically awful back stories – she’s abandoned her child, he was a member of terror group Boko Haram – and they are not likable. Sure they are homeless so they have every right to be negative but this is such a downer. But not even in an affecting way – their story did not resonate afterwards and I completely forgot about this immediately after.

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I have to give credit to Connelly though – she gives her all in this role. She goes full-frontal, really convinces as an addict and just generally looks awful onscreen. She lost so much weight for it too that she looks frighteningly emaciated when she wears a strapless dress in one scene. I haven’t seen Mackie do a serious movie in ages so I was pleasantly surprised by his performance and convincing Nigerian accent.

I don’t believe their relationship was out of love but more necessity and having constant company. They believed they could help each other and there is a glimmer of hope here. There is not much a plot really, just a slow reveal about their back stories but some scenes were nice. There were loads of horrific ones like Hannah pimping herself out for money, and their increasing desperation for shelter as Tahir gets sick.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a love story between homeless people shown on film before, so I applaud Bettany for taking it on. It really shows the grim and gritty reality of sleeping rough, having no money and having an addiction. It’s just a shame it’s not impactful. I don’t mind depressing films if they are powerful, make me think afterwards and give a strong message but this is forgettable. This is sad considering the awesome performances by Connelly and Mackie.

Released on VOD from today 

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