Shelter: A Gay Movie Review
I have never really been a fan of queer cinema - especially gay centric movies - it ping-pong's between shockingly depressing and jarringly unrelatable. I am beginning to wonder whether the writer would be satisfied if I took a straight-blade to my wrist once the movie ended, or, perhaps, if I'm watching a comedy pop by my local grocer and pick up some phallic looking vegetables to play boyfriend with. Sometimes, I just want to watch a the gay equivalent of a Julia Roberts or Meg Ryan movie; a romantic comedy which is light, fluffy and has the emotional crescendo near the end which always causes you to cry - sometimes you need to believe a man like Tom Hanks would bring you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils. What I liked about Shelter was it was able to deal with some serious issues but did not revel in the sadness of being a closeted gay but celebrated the discovery of new love.
Zach (Trevor Wright) spends his days after secondary school working the grill at a burger joint, taking care of Cody, his nephew, and working on his art. We understand his life is not easy and for someone so young - no more than nineteen - he has considerable responsibilities heaped upon his shoulders; his father seems unable to care for himself, Jeanne (Tina Holmes), his unmarried sister and mother to Cody, seems uninterested in raising her own child and it would seem his relationship with his girlfriend is rocky, at best.
When it all becomes too much for him, he takes to the open sea - surfing allows him to gain some needed perspective on his world. It isn't until Shaun (Brad Rowe), older brother to his Cody's best friend, returns to spend the summer in his parents beachside home does Cody finally seem to find a confidente - they construct a superficial friendship on the foundation of a shared love of surfing. It comes as a shock to Shaun that Zach had enjoyed his first novel and knew he was gay, later after a considerable amount of alcohol they share a kiss.
While Zach withdraws from the 'friendship' seemingly unable to deal with another person leaving him or disappearing but Shaun doesn't push, instead he encourages Zach to focus on his own future and do something with his art. Zach, unable to stay away, spends the night with Shaun and soon their relationship develops into a secret romance - something untouched by the other decaying relationships withering around him. It's not until his family life, his relationship with Shaun and his perceptions about what it is to be himself in reference to his family and friends does Zach finally need to make some major life decisions.
Shelter stands above a lot of the other queer movies - especially in the age of Brokeback - which is thanks to the strong writing and fantastic cast. Thankfully, the movie resists the urge to fall into the cliched 'coming-out' stereotypes many of the other movies of its kind play in, it doesn't feel heavy and weighted in the 'solitude' of homosexuality.
Rowe and Wright both shine and have a natural chemistry on screen which makes the movie enjoyable to watch and they both seem uninterested in forcing the storyline along with an overwrought urgency in their acting but seem comfortable to play it cool. The most notable from the supporting cast is Holmes whose delivery of Jeanne is pitch-perfect and was able to develop layers to her character, if left in the hands of less talented actress her character would be no more than a selfish bitch. You may not agree with her decisions but Holmes has the ability to make you feel like Jeanne genuinely believes she is doing the right thing, knowing full-well she is unable to care for her child.
This is one of my favourite movies and anyone I watch it with falls in love with it, as well. My overall rating of this movie would be four surfboards out of five. If you haven't had the pleasure than I suggest you grab a bowl of popcorn, some milkduds and curl up on your couch to watch a gay Meg Ryan movie.