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Shelter - DVD Review

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Shelter - DVD Review

3 stars

"I used to be someone," reads a cardboard sign held up by Hannah (Jennifer Connelly), a homeless woman on the streets of Manhattan in the movie Shelter. Hannah and another vagrant, Tahir (Anthony Mackie), meet and slowly fall in love. He's an illegal Nigerian immigrant whose family died in war, and she's a mother and widow, addicted to heroin. Tahir has an air of politeness and practices Islam. He believes fervently in Allah and an afterlife, while Hannah finds his faith laughable and illogical. She's the reckless type who comes up with the ideas, say, to steal produce from an outdoor vendor. Both of them are highly intelligent, and they have intellectual conversations about their beliefs and life stories. Over time, their bond of friendship deepens into love.

We follow Tahir and Hannah as they face one hardship after another: in the beginning, his few possessions are stolen; she has a suicidal crisis; after he gets sick, the health care system splits them up; etc. There's a somewhat unrealistic respite when a vacationing rich couple leaves their home unlocked, allowing Tahir and Hannah to sneak in and "play house." But before long, the owners return and the two find themselves destitute again. Hannah does have a family, a father who searches for her and a son who is growing up without her. These facts become more important as the story goes on. There seems to be more hope for Hannah than for Tahir, so at least one of them has a possible way out.

Both Connelly and Mackie turn in believable performances. What's less believable is that their flawless famous faces belong to poor or drug addicted individuals. But Jennifer Connelly in particular is an obvious casting choice, because her husband Paul Bettany directed the film in his directorial debut.

Shelter is not the kind of movie you talk about "enjoying," exactly. In fact, the misery of the plot almost never lets up. At one point someone seems to help Hannah out of kindness, only to expect sexual favors in return. All kinds of human suffering are depicted, from illness to rape and murder. Of course, any movie with themes of poverty and drug addiction will be bleak. But this one really piles on the agony. So although it means well Shelter is hard, if not masochistic, to watch. If it was less graphic and emphatic on brutality, then its important message would have gone down better.

Shelter - DVD Review

MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content, brief drug use.
Runtime:
105 mins
Director
: Paul Bettany
Writer:
Paul Bettany
Cast:
Adolfo Mendez-Nouel, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Hoffman
Genre
: Drama
Tagline:
Shelter
Memorable Movie Quote: "I used to be Someone"
Distributor:
Screen Media Films
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 13, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 2, 2016
Synopsis: Hannah and Tahir fall in love while homeless on the streets of New York. Shelter explores how they got there, and as we learn about their pasts we realize they need each other to build a future.

Shelter - DVD Review

DVD

DVD Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 2, 2016
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
5.1 and 2.0 surround
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: A

The only extra feature is a short Q and A with a panel of Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Mackie and Paul Bettany. They touch on the inspiration for the movie, favorite scenes and how great it is in general. If you're already a fan, you might appreciate this feature. Otherwise, skip it.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • With director Jonah Markowitz and lead actors Trevor Wright and Brad Rowe

Special Features:

DVD Bonus Feature: Short Q & A with Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Mackie and Paul Bettany

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