We’ve seen the world end many times in recent years. From rapture-teasing shadow monsters to a scorched Earth thanks to a solar belch from the Sun, we’ve suffered an asteroid apocalypse, Mayan prophecies and death by planetfall – the end of everything has never been so popular.

In Take Shelter there are no crowds of people staring terrified into the sky nor are there alien invasions to finish us all off, instead we see the end of one man’s world as a mental illness begins to take hold and the struggle to weather the storm begins in earnest.

Michael Shannon leads us through this mindbound apocalyptadrama as a stoic, hard-working family man increasingly prone to seeing vast approaching storms in a clear blue sky and suffering vivid nightmares consisting of the most primal of fears. Unable to reach out to his wife and friends about these debilitating happenings Curtis (Shannon’s character)  develops an obsession with restoring and extending a storm shelter in his garden as the imagined storms loom closer and the dreams more intense. The ever wonderful Jessica Chastain is Samantha, Curtis’s wife, whose faith in her husband suffers greatly as his silence and erratic behaviour begins to affect their family, their home and their future.

Less Field of and Dreams more Field of Nightmares writer/director Jeff Nichols has crafted an unflinching meditation on the world we can control, and that which we are the mercy of. Shannon’s compelling performance is among the best you’ll see this year as he cloaks a dignity and vulnerability with a hard-nosed pragmatism, keeping in his growing fears and frustrations to protect himself first and his family second – a duplicity which is borne of good intentions but which Nichols places at the heart of the film to tremendous effect

There’s not a moment wasted here either. The visions and dreams Curtis has are carefully built to keep us guessing if the coming storm is in his head or a real threat, the increasingly fractured dealings with his colleagues and midnight trips to the storm shelter in his garden to read his books on mental illness borrowed from the library engage our sympathy and intrigue. All the time we are wondering if he is protecting his family from an external threat or on the verge of becoming the thing which they should be running from.

What impressed me most was Nichols’ deft handling of the family and their internal collapse. With a number of slow motion Lynchian trawls through the family home in Curtis’s dreams to the struggle to afford a cochlear implants for their daughter the real and the unreal worlds are given equal weight as both fight for dominance in Curtis’s mind. Much is made of the relationships through the performances with, at times, sparse dialogue and a confident hand from Nichols. Their deaf daughter is not merely a device to elicit sympathy for the family as the breakdown occurs. It is a simple mater of fact which evokes, through Shannon’s stunning performance, a primal need to protect his child and her future.

It’s one detail among many which in lesser hands could have been milked and run into the ground but what we have in Take Shelter is a compelling and powerful drama with a triumphant central turn by Michael Shannon.