Shelter (Jonah Markowitz). Released March 21st, 2008 (one week prior to its DVD bow)
Zach: You dating anyone?That exchange, twenty minutes into this pleasant Here!-bound film, takes place between young confused Zach (Trevor Wright) and his best friend's older brother Shaun (Brad Rowe, pictured), who was once his mentor in surfing. Zach and Shaun will soon become lovers, much to their initial surprise. This conversation, taking place before Zach has allowed himself to understand anything about Shaun's personal life, is typical of Shelter's mellow and modest charms: slightly funny but you don't laugh, mildly sad but you won't need tissues, flirtatious without ever making it to sexy.
Shaun: No, just broke up.
Zach: Is that why you're really down here?
Shaun: Nah, nah, nah... nah. [pause] Yeah, actually it is.
As I was watching the film I remembered floating in the ocean in spots where non-threatening waves would jostle me around a bit. Sometimes I was up: wow, this gay movie actually has real characterizations (shock) and ideas about topics other than Gay (double shock). Sometimes I was down: I started to get the nagging suspicion that all involved were capable of more than they were giving. If Shelter never quite delves into some of those rare and welcome non-sexuality based issues it raises (namely the responsibilities of non-parental family members to children, friendships that cross class lines, and the awkward transitions of fully adult relationships that started as childhood friendships) ...well, at least it's raising them. Too few gay movies ever look beyond the three favored topics of the genre: AIDS, the coming out process and today's favored sub-subgenre: the raunchy sex comedy. I wish there was a little more heat between the straight leads in Shelter (yes even gay-financed gay-audience seeking films favor gay-for-pay casting) but I liked the film.
One of the ways you can tell this is a step above the typical disposable GLBT film is the look of it. While it's definitely on the bland side (perhaps a budget issue) there are also actual ideas present. Look at the way the characters seem to match their environments. Consider Shaun's pad (left) which is all light and airy with cool greens and blues... people dress accordingly there. Then consider Zach's humbler abode (pictured right). It's not quite Garden State chameleon kitsch but the idea is there: Zach can't escape his tiny low-end life. He's starting to dissolve into the space, becoming one with the walls and furniture. I didn't realize until I was writing this that the director was once a production designer. That bit of trivia doesn't surprise me at all.
Thankfully Shelter differentiates itself from its own environs more than Zach himself. I may have wanted the movie to be more (it's so vague with its more intriguing elements that one imagines that maybe it should have been a television series instead: flesh this thing out!) but it's still better than the typical indies one sees in queer places like Logo or Here!