Monday, August 11, 2008

'Shelter' - A Gay Film Directed by Jonah Markowitz

Zach (left) and Shaun

Just seen a great award-winning gay film - 'Shelter', directed by Jonah Markowitz and starring Brad Rowe and Trevor Wright.

I watch a lot of gay films, as we all do, cos they're about gay rather than cos they're good films. But this is not one of those. It even has high production values! All of which makes it feel like a major Hollywood effort, not that we always cringlingly wanna be part of mainstream cinema.

The story is about two guys in a small California town. Zach and Shaun. Who become partners.

One living on the other side of the tracks and not realizing his dream of going to art school. Zach has a long term girl-friend (hyphenated, advisedly) and not fully come out even to himself.

And the other back from LA to the better side of the tracks to chill from a broken relationship with a bloke.

The two are friends from childhood. And revitalize their friendship through, among other stuff, their love of surfing.

What is particularly engaging about this film is the way the plot unfolds is ways which do not tremble and shake with cliche. I kept feeling I was being presented with real actions and reactions. Situations I've encountered and had to deal with, often in ways that are not ideal.

The characters are complex - not simply constructed as good or bad. Zach's sister has a five-year-old boy but in the end leaves the child with Zach and Shaun to take her chances with a drifter. However this is presented in the film in ways that do not disturb your sympathy for her - no minor achievement!

Happily, the dialogue makes meanings that do not necessarily flaunt themselves on the surface but dart about as currents underneath.

Sadly, the sex in the film is not at all good - more than a bit frantic and rushed at. Though there is great sweetness in their first kiss. One of the great screen pashes in my estimation. There is the moment of hesitation before and then Shaun takes the initiative to move into it. Gentle and lingering ... but sexy. All at just the right real pace.

Four and a half stars out of five?


  1. I watched it last week and it was a lovely cuddly in bed movie watching experience, especially so when it is so cold in Sydney at the moment.

    It gave me a nice warm feeling in the cockles of my heart ;)

    "Shelter" also reminded me of another wonderful coming out movie from the UK, "Beautiful Thing" released sometime in the mid 90s.


  2. I would love to watch this and it probably won't show in any cinema in Hong Kong.

    By the way, the kissing and striping part look pretty much exactly like the one from "Just a Question of Love"

  3. This DVD is in my collection. I thought it was excellent. Any movie where the straight people are more dysfunctional is OK in my book. But once again I cavil in that couldn't they find gay actors to play these parts?

    Brad Rowe has played ambiguous before (opposite Sean Hayes in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss) but comes out in one the extras on the CD as straight. The other guy played one of the daughter's many boyfriends on the George Lopez show and is dating some hot young actress.

    I realize it's a quibble but c'mon - half the young actors in Hollywood are gay. Why couldn't they have been hired by the director - a gay man himself.

    Alan down in Florida

  4. hey alan

    glad you had a similar reaction to 'shelter' - i watched it twice - says it all!

    i have a double view on the need for gay actors to play these parts. while i agree on the one hand, i'm persuaded by the argument that there is not a necessity for simple actors to play simple characters, or for actors convicted of murder to play killers - stretching a point here of course - LOL! but the general point seems true enough. i do agree that even in this fine movie the actors seem awkward in the love/sex bits and this makes me feel uncomfortable - it's not necessarily that i am being confronted by their (deeper level) feelings about gay, it can simply be a matter of preference revealed. tricky one! and you are right - there are a squillion hot gay actors in tinsel town - and hollywood is certainly not shy about casting to type!!! but i'll probably watch it again! how bout you?


  5. hey jon. pity the film won't get a showing in HK - BTW, how did you manage to see it? i don't know 'Just a Question of Love' but thanks for the pointer - i'll look out for it! take care. nick

  6. I gotta agree with Jon there.
    Why is it that these film companies that cater to the "gay folk" can't actually hire gay actors?

    Imagine how hot "Brokeback Mountain" would have been if they had hired some gay porn stars .... I can't choose between all the ones I want - but it don't matter!! lol

    Oh well. Guess I will check out that video on Netflix (if its there)

  7. hey greg. sadly, i think the film companies are too scared of what the wider community thinks of gay actors to cast them - and this leads gay actors to being too nervous to come out. can't think of a whole heap of big mainstream out gay actors beyond rupert everett and stephen fry and ... . hope this can change. take care. nick

  8. hey martin. watching in bed is a great way to experience 'shelter'. i got a bit emotional at the end - did you? and i loved 'beautiful thing' too - a great not-too-plastic gay movie dealing with real issues and emotions.

  9. Just A Question of Love is a French gay movie. You will find it easily ;)

  10. hey jon. just been YouTubing it - looks good - what did you like in particular about it? take care. nick

  11. Thanks for the post - found the movie and liked it very much. Never heard of "just a question of love" although I am french - some serious update is needed here - I'll look for it right away ! Thanks for your posts - always interesting.

  12. hey charlie. yeah, 'shelter' and 'shortbus' are actually good as films - as i've said, i've often watch gay/gay-themed movies just cos they're about my world. glad you like the blog. take care. nick

  13. I also enjoyed it greatly. It was very well made

  14. hey anon. have you seen 'shortbus'? different but another film that stands up on its own for me, not just cos of the gay content. great beginning! take care. nick