FILM REVIEW Shelter

Personality crisis

15 * 112 mins * OUT NOW!

Distributor: Icon

Directors: Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein

Cast: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Frances Conroy, Brooklynn Proulx, Nathan Corddr

Faith is tested in more ways than one in Shelter, which begins as a psychological thriller, transforms into a supernatural bonce-scratcher and finally descends into an almighty mess. Julianne Moore’s pragmatic shrink must put down her textbooks and open her mind to things she can’t explain (like what the hell’s going on…). Characters with no faith – whether because of a personal crisis or simply because they’re godless unbelievers – are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. And by the third act the audience’s faith is severely tested: will they stick around after, following a smart and intriguing build-up, the film jumps the shark into confused religious mumbo-jumbo?

Moore’s “doctor of science but woman of god” firmly believes that multiple personality disorder is a made-up condition, until she meets mental patient Adam (Jonathan Rhys Myers). Setting out to prove he’s a fraud, she learns that Adam’s alter-egos are other living people. Or rather they were, since each one suffered a premature demise. Rhys Myers tries out his best acting, switching accents and physicality as he flicks between personas, Moore is watchable as the action escalates, and the slow-burn narrative keeps us guessing while the mystery unfolds. Then we meet blind crone “The Granny”, some Satan-worshipping mountain witches and a 100-year-old preacher who hasn’t aged a day. Interest turns to incredulity, frustration and ultimately disappointment.

The US feature debut of Swedish directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, written by Michael Cooney, who penned Identity (another movie with a dodgy ending), Shelter is structurally reminiscent of Moore’s 2004 supernatural thriller The Forgotten, which also felt like two different movies stapled together. With more red herrings than Billingsgate market, a logic-defying mythology, and a religious subtext that may sit uncomfortably with casual heathens, it’s too long by about 20 minutes and too silly by half. A cross-genre jumble of half-cooked ideas, Shelter really does move in mysterious ways. Rosie Fletcher