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|Index||70 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This one is currently making the festival rounds, and last night played at Los Angeles' Outfest, to an enthusiastic crowd. That it was produced by Here! TV (creators of such awful crud as Dante's Cove) didn't exactly fill me with much hope, but to my surprise, I walked out of last night's screening believing that I'd seen one of the best films Outfest has programmed in years, and one of the best gay films about family dynamics ever. From writer/director Jonah Markowitz down to even the smallest details, this one's a winner. The story seems very simple, but Markowitz takes his very familiar coming-of-age premise and molds it into a very rich and rewarding experience for movie viewers. In a nutshell, the story is about Zach, a talented young artist struggling to balance the demands and responsibilities of his disintegrating family with his need to express himself as an individual and deal with his budding sexuality. Lead actor, Trevor Wright, deserves a lot of praise for giving such a commanding performance in a role that involves a lot of quiet moments. You see so much of the story in Wright's beautiful eyes and nuanced expressions. He has one small scene, while driving home, that had the Outfest audience thunderously cheering, and all it involves is a slow, satisfied smile that creeps across his lips. And that's just one of many truly lovely moments. The rest of the cast is top-notch as well. And the cinematography of Joseph White (lots of beautiful long shots, as well as some amazing surfing footage courtesy of surf director of photography David Warshauer) and the evocative score by J. Peter Robinson (and original songs by Shane Mack) really help make this one of the best gay-themed films made in years. I can't praise it highly enough. See it the first chance you get!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How I wish this film existed when I was 18 years old. It would have
helped me reconcile my inner-struggles and feelings about being a
homosexual much more easily and given me more structure of what to
expect from someone should I have become involved with another guy.
Fortunately, younger generations now and to come will benefit not only
at an entertaining level with "Shelter," but also be rewarded with a
reflection of themselves of the two stellar, magnificent male
characters, Zach and Shaun, in the film.
After some months of hearing about this film through blogs and on MySpace, I finally got to see "Shelter" this past weekend. It is an absolutely superb, wonderfully woven film. With a strong California look and feel as a backdrop, the film is about young Zach (played remarkably by Trevor Wright) struggling with maintaining responsibility to his family while dealing with friends and potentially giving up his academic dreams to be an artist. Eventually, he develops feelings for his best friend's brother (played by veteran talent, Brad Rowe) during the course of events, triggering conflicting feelings almost beyond his control. Fortunate for him, the grand support of Shaun, his best friend's gay brother, Zach can see there is light at the end of his dark tunnel. And eventually he develops not only the strength to accept himself and Shaun into his life, but become an extraordinary father-figure to his 5 year old nephew, Cody.
The beautiful thing about "Shelter" is that it doesn't rely on inane gay stereo-types (i.e.: flamboyant characters, drag queens, limp-wristed high-pitched voiced effete men, gratuitous sex bordering on pornography, etc.) or heavy-handed subject matter (drug addiction, HIV/AIDS). "Shelter" handles the hurtle of coming-out with such warmth, humor, and touching grace. And the sub-theme of two gay men becoming aptly-able father figures to a young child sends a remarkable message that perhaps not all heterosexuals may be capable of raising a child as effectively as two responsible gay men with strong family values in their hearts.
Once more, what sets "Shelter" apart from most other gay films is how straight-forward and beautifully portrayed it is. Where most other American-made gay films offer are poor writing, terrible acting, bad direction, typical campy content, leading and supporting promiscuous gay characters, shrilling dialouge -- need I list those horrible films -- "Shelter" is strongly distinguished, sincere, and authentic. This is a wonderful film which will undoubtedly become a future classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I see as many "gay movies" as I can, and have accumulated quite a
collection of DVDs. I think it comes from having grown up and been a
young adult and even not so young adult at a time when there were few
gay characters in movies, let alone a genre called "gay cinema." As
people who know me are aware, I'm pretty forgiving as a
theatergoer/film-goer, and often manage to see good even in plays and
movies that have gotten mostly negative reviews.
Tonight I saw a movie that I can rave about without reservations, Jonah Markowitz' Shelter, a film every bit as fine (in all respects) as those which get nominated for Independent Spirit awards every year.
Shelter is the story of Zach, a 20ish surfer/skateboarder/artist with a dead-end job and a dead-end life. With an older sister more interested in going after the wrong men than in taking care of her 6-year-old son, it falls on Zach's shoulders to be the father figure in young Cody's life. (Zach and Jeanne's mother is dead, and their father pretty much non-existent since injuring his back.) Zach has a best friend, Gabe, and an on-again-off-again girlfriend Tori. The return of Gabe's older brother Shaun makes Zach realize something about himself that he'd managed to avoid thinking about, and soon the two end up "more than friends." What makes Shelter such a fine film, besides Markowitz' gifts as a director/writer, the quality of its music, editing, and art direction, and the excellent performances of its cast (and that's already saying a lot), is the way it deals with seen-that-done-that themes in new and non-clichéd ways. Yes, it's a coming out story, yes, Zach has trouble accepting who he is, yes, Zach's sister doesn't react well to having a gay brother, but no, Zach's best friend doesn't desert him, and no, his girlfriend doesn't have a hissy fit when she learns the truth, and in the end, Zach turns out to be quite a man.
Ultimately, Shelter treats its gay romance pretty much like any straight indie film would treat a boy-girl one, and if ever there was a film which shows how "love makes a family," Shelter is that film.
Trevor Wright (Zach), Brad Rowe (Shaun), Tina Holmes (Jeanne), Ross Thomas (Gabe), Katie Walder (Tori), and young Jackson Worth (Cody) couldn't be better and deserve to be remembered in award season, as do the filmmakers.
Keep a copy of Shelter handy to loan to anyone who bemoans the state of gay cinema in 2008. It's alive and well, thank you very much.
(Note: Rowe and Holmes made their marks in two of 1998's best gay films, he in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss and she in Edge Of Seventeen. It was his 2nd, her 1st movie, and the beginning of successful Hollywood careers for both. It's great to see the two of them return to the genre 10 years later in such an outstanding film.)
First thing's first. Those of you comparing Shelter to Brokeback
Mountain should just give it up. Brokeback is in a different league, it
belongs with films like The Wizard of Oz and Sunset Boulevard, it's a
masterpiece, a milestone in cinematic history, not that the idiots at
I'd seen Tan Lines and swore I'd never sit through another crappy gay surfer flick but I'm glad I took a chance and watched Shelter, this is an outstanding film. The dialogue is so true to life it's remarkable. I mean this movie is set in San Pedro, I live several thousand miles north in Toronto, yet the dialogue and the way people live felt right even for me.
I too love this film and highly recommend it. Any criticism I might have would be petty compared to what this film delivers. Watch Shelter for Wright's performance as Zach - but it has so much more going for it. I also really liked Tina Holmes's performance as the selfish sister. Her character isn't likable but there's a vulnerability, an insecurity she projects that helps you understand why Zach goes way out there to support her and his nephew Cody. Zach is a truly decent young man with a good loving heart but his sister is adrift in life and without Zach as her anchor you know she'd be lost. I love the brotherly/sisterly interplay between Zach and Jeanne, very well written and acted.
My favourite scene takes place in the "Pacific Diner" the morning after the party when Zach is confronted by his best friend Gabe. It could have easily descended into cliché, but it came off as genuine and heartfelt. It's a corny scene but I really appreciated Gabe's ready acceptance of Zach and how their friendship transcends sexual orientation.
The soundtrack is also uniformly excellent. This entire film is a labour of love. Even the art sense is exceptional, it's superb. Sometimes a movie resonates and this is one of those times.
Don't we all wish we had a great guy like Shaun in our lives? In a way Shelter sort of is the anti-Brokeback movie. I don't know, this movie snuck up and got to me. Kudos to Jonah Markowitz and the people over at Here! for making Shelter. And a big thanks to all the actors, musicians, artists and everyone associated with it. You've made a wonderful film.
I cannot imagine a film that depicts the real relationships that many
of us in the Gay community are looking for. A new best friend becoming
a lover and partner; someone who sees you for who you are and not what
they can make of you. That unbelievable structure and support we seek
from an individual, someone to complete us and hopefully better us. It
is harder to see it when it presents itself right in your face, you
take that step back and say, 'Whoa, okay when did THAT happen!'. You
test the waters slip in and learn to swim all over again.
SHELTER has become my goto movie when I am feeling down, and a few of my straight friends have found this to be a very inspirational film in their own lives.
I watch a lot of movies, almost daily. there are some movies you see once and forget soon enough. and then there are those which you see without any preconceived notions and love so much, you pass on a lot of "good" movies you haven't seen to watch that movie repeatedly. shelter is one such movie. for a little over a month, I've been pleasantly obsessed with shelter. my first reaction was, i identify with most themes in this film, except that i haven't met my Shaun yet. Trevor wright's performance is out of this world. he is a hundred percent brilliant in every frame and the best thing about this awesome movie. i definitely think he deserves more leading roles in such meaningful movies, and he's definitely Oscar material. the story is very well crafted, the screenplay is done well. the music deserves special mention, not only because they work very well with the story, but they are very good, especially the songs by Shane mack. the other actors do a fine job, whether its the kid, Jackson Wurth or the love interest brad Rowe.Tina Holmes,Ross Thomas and Katie Walder are all very good. the movie is very well shot. the locales are terrific. this movie deserves a wider recognition than it gets. what i liked most about it is that besides gay love and coming out, it deals with a number of other themes, and gay love is basically what saves the protagonist, instead of making life harder for him. shelter is a thoughtful, excellently made film and i wish it really gets all the accolades it deserves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember when "Brokeback Mountain" first came out. It caused an
uproar. It was considered to be a landmark in "gay cinema," and it was
supposed to "change your life." Well. I don't really consider it a
landmark, and it didn't change my life. When I first saw BBM, I didn't
like it. It took another viewing or two for it to grow on me. And while
now, after two years, I can enjoy the movie from a detached position
and consider it to be a well-directed and well-acted movie, I still
don't really see what the big deal is.
And let me just say one thing: "Brokeback Mountain" has NOTHING on "Shelter." Have you ever watched a movie and just instantly fell in love with it? It's an indescribable feeling. You ultimately just feel like that movie is made for you to watch, to enjoy, and to hopefully implore others to watch. Not harass, but just let people know that you think it's a good film. The last movie I really, truly remember feeling that way about was "Finding Neverland" back in 2004. November of 2004, actually, so it's been almost four years since I've felt this way about a movie.
The summary on IMDb does not do the film justice. To really, and accurately, grasp the concept, you need to watch it. If you go on Rotten Tomatoes to check out its score, I fear you will be swayed from watching it. I would know; it almost swayed me. I went on Rotten Tomatoes to check out the score, and it's not exactly top-notch. Not many people voted on it, but it still does not have a high score. As I was looking at the meter and reading some short reviews, I thought to myself, "Great. I wanted to watch this movie, but what if I'm just wasting my time?" So I compromised. I watched the movie online, in parts. I skipped to the last part, the end of the movie, and watched solely that.
And you know what? I LOVED IT! I didn't think it was possible to fall in love with eight minutes of a movie, let alone the end of a movie, but I did. And there it was. I'm being completely serious. After watching the end, naturally I wanted to watch the rest. And I did. And the whole thing was just beautiful.
Trevor Wright is astounding as Zach, a young man who's struggling with his life on a day-to-day basis with his family, his on-again/off-again girlfriend, and his job. While watching him, it's almost like you're being pulled into his world and you're not watching someone act. It's like you're watching Zach go about his day and the problems he endures. I hope that Trevor gets more critical acclaim for this role, as I'm not sure if anyone else could have done it as well as him.
Brad Rowe as Shaun is funny, charming, and sweet as a confidante, friend, and partner to Zach. He's outgoing, friendly, and knows how to put a smile on Zach's, and Cody's (Zach's nephew) face. He and Trevor have chemistry on screen in such a way that it's hard to believe these are two actors. Again, it's like you're just watching them go about their lives.
Too many movies with homosexual themes are forced, awkward, over-acted, or any combination of those previous things. To be able to capture a movie that literally revolves around family and love and intimacy, without falling into the trap that so many other movies have (including "straight" romantic comedies), amazes me. I feel privileged to have been able to take part in the magic that is this movie. To me, it's a new favorite and has surpassed several of my other favorites based on acting, direction, charisma, and overall wow-factor. That's exactly what this movie made me do: Go WOW! The love and intimacy are genuine. The struggle and longing for a family is realistic and heartwarming. And the bottom line is that the characters are human beings that you empathize with, care about, and hope for the best for.
I give this movie 9 out of 10. It really deserves 10 out of 10, but I feel compelled to warn you that, on occasion, SOME parts are just a TINY bit overacted. Those parts mostly involve the words "cool" or "great". Those two words are used many times throughout the film, and it's a little bit annoying, but it's not a big deal. It's mostly just what I imagine is supposed to be California-speak, though I myself am not from California and am therefore not a reliable resource on the subject.
Please just give the movie a chance. I don't think you will regret it. I think you will enjoy it, and hopefully find the magic in it that I did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm still trying to figure out why I can't stop thinking about this
film! After several months, dozens of viewings and more long-winded
message board posts than I dare admit, I've decided to take my time and
ride out this wave until the next cinematic revelation comes along.
So, why the movie madness? . . . Here are some of the things that I love about Shelter - regardless of logic or reason:
The story: It's easy to dismiss kitchen sink realism as the stuff of made-for-TV movies, but this treatment is so appropriate for Shelter's plot. The domestic scenes allow the viewer to relate to the characters, internalize even the subtlest emotions and experience the level of intimacy portrayed.
The significance: Although the film-making process highlights its independent approach, the movie stands out by deftly combining key elements from television and popular culture. A transcendent quality reflects the same images found on the average TV screen: the family-driven Lifetime/Hallmark drama; the sexy HBO/Showtime series; the slick MTV/VHI music video (I think Zach and Shaun's nebulous age gap is best described as the difference between these two channels); not to mention, the youth-oriented ESPN/X Games sports culture. There's even a Jerry Springer/Oprah tinge to Zach's family struggles and his sister's promiscuity. In my opinion, the film's most powerful attraction is its post-millennial take on two popular 80's flicks: Flashdance and The Karate Kid. Shelter's anti-Brokeback ambitions are wonderfully realized, but, to me, the movie's anti-Cinderella subtext stands as its most enchanting (and radical) feature. In this departure from the original tale, a codependent family dynamic must rescue itself from implosion and the battle for true love involves three charming princes and only one "evil" sister.
The sensitivity: If a wave of pop culture makes Shelter relevant, a strong undercurrent of art makes the movie resonate. The visuals are both edgy and ethereal, perfectly capturing the conflict between Zach's dismal reality and his suppressed desires. The dialog is mundane, profane and poetic all at the same time. The melodic soundtrack establishes the stream of consciousness upon which the plot drifts forward. Most of all, the narrative arcs are largely left up to the viewer's interpretation and emotional projection. These layers help Shelter succeed at being an art film in the classic sense while serving as a contemporary work of *heart*.
The sensibleness: I know my explanation may not appeal to logic or reason, but it doesn't mean that the film can't. My absolute favorite aspect of the story is that it makes sense. Sure, there are discussion boards picking apart missing details, but, overall, I think this is one of the most logical love stories that I've seen in a long time. The very fact that I'm using the words "logical" and "love story" in the same sentence is amazing enough. The movie illustrates the deep connection between our emotional responses and our past experiences. It also reveals how finding intimacy helps us to embrace our true selves. Shelter reminds us that life has its own inner wisdom and that our existence flows in directions which we cannot immediately understand. Upon looking back (or up at a movie screen), however, we realize that these currents are what pull us towards our destiny.
Most films that have gay characters have them as shallow and
promiscuous party goers. Also usually the "romance" is just sex, sex
and more sex. Not this film though.
For once we see a true romance between men where they connect not only in bed but in life too. Because of this I was able to connect to the film better than any gay themed film I've watched before; I was practically giddy when Zach was on the phone with Sean cause I have been in that situation before.
Other gay films should be like this one, realistic and with real men that have care more than about how they look in the mirror, we get enough of those twinks from the rest of Hollywood. I am going to recommend this to all of my friends and buy a copy right away.
Unsure of his sexuality, Zach (a really good performance by Trevor
Wright) lives in southern California where he works a menial job and
enjoys both surfing the waves and creating "street art". His adult
sister has a five-year-old son, but she is not a good mother. And so
Zach must look after both, especially the boy, while the mom parties
and goes off with her dimwit boyfriend. Zach's best bud is a fellow
surfer named Gabe, who has a gay brother. Given Zach's loyalty to his
sister and nephew, and the irresponsibility of his sister, the story
has strong thematic value.
The film's script is rich in characterization and melodrama. Dialogue contains some good subtext. The plot structure is okay but predictable, and reminds me of "Making Love", a 1982 film with the same general gay theme. The lead character in that film also was a guy named Zach.
Overall acting in "Shelter" is quite good. There's not a weak performance anywhere. Color cinematography is beautiful, and includes lots of super long shots and some lens flares. Production design is detailed and realistic.
My main quibble with the film is background music that is weak. Also, I could have wished for fewer montage sequences (I counted no fewer than five). Although they are a lazy writer's gimmick to prop up a script, their inclusion doesn't seem to have bothered other viewers.
"Shelter" is a low-budget gay-theme film that doesn't seem low budget at all. I attribute that to excellent visuals, professional level acting, and quality production design. Overall, it's a fine film, and a worthy contemporary update to "Making Love".
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