Nashville Film Festival Review: ‘Shelter’ Has an Identity Crisis

No one can be trusted in this Mossad Thriller. Or is it a Romantic Drama?

RATING: ★★ (out of four stars)

There is something about an isolation thriller that is so captivating. One or two people being stuck in a single place opens up the door for great character development and creative plot devices. With Shelter, the characters are strong and the performances are impressive, but unfortunately that’s all it has going for it as the movie repeatedly misfires and tries too hard.

The story follows Naomi (Neta Riskin), a Mossad Agent who is called back to work from sick leave to protect Mona (Golshifteh Farahani), a Lebanese informant. Mona is undergoing facial reconstruction surgery so she can safely live her life and Naomi has to “babysit” her for two weeks. Sounds simple enough, right? If only…

If there is one thing Shelter gets right, especially in the first act, it’s establishing the paranoia around every corner. At first, it starts off promising. But as the movie progresses, the plot moves so incredibly slow and the pacing is all over the place, which will lead you to checking your watch every 10 or 15 minutes (it it’s only an hour and a half long). And on top of that, it seems like the movie is over two hours long and it suffers from the classic case of when a movie doesn’t know how to end.

As flawed as Shelter is, there are some enjoyable parts. The bond between Naomi and Mona is very well-directed. Of course at first, they don’t particularly like each other. No grown woman wants to be babysat and Naomi tries to treat it as just another job. Of course, they eventually get close and it’s kind of sweet. Some of this downtime with their characters helps with the development and relationship, but it slows down the movie exponentially. It’s almost like Shelter has an identity crisis. Deciding whether it wants to be a thriller or a romantic drama, the end result does not make for a great mixture.

The biggest lacking aspect in Shelter though is genuine suspense. It could have been so much better if there were more tense-filled scenes where the viewer actually felt like the protagonist was in danger. But sadly, every time Shelter attempts suspense, it’s  simply disappointing.

Overall, Shelter falls flat. A simplistic story has the ability to be powerful and thought-provoking, but the director has to be able to evoke genuine suspense and keep his vision poised and clear. Maybe watch this one on a rainy day if it is on a streaming service.