Film #187: Shelter (2007)

shelterdirector: Jonah Markowitz
language: English
length: 97 minutes
watched on: 30 May 2016

I read a book last year with the unwieldy title of Bear, Otter and the Kid, and I read a haughty review of that book that claimed it was completely unoriginal and based on this movie, Shelter. Indeed, it’s very similar. The movie was out in 2007, back when I was 19 and had only been out for a year, and right when I was really devouring gay movies (a lot of which were shit, frankly), and it should have been a prime target for me back then. I passed it over for some reason.

So a lot of the plot elements really are the same as the aforementioned book – I think the biggest difference is the exact chronology of the story, and the kid in the story is the main character’s nephew here, not his younger brother. But the key elements are the same – a boy who wants to leave and get into art school is forced to take care of this kid, and gets unexpected help from his best friend’s gay older brother, who he falls in love with after breaking up with his on-again-off-again girlfriend. Drama comes from the sister, who is initially homophobic for… some reason. The similarities are difficult to ignore, and I’m pretty sure that book was just meant to be an adaptation of this.

The film is superbly judged and the timing of the eventual first kiss is subtly hinted at before it really happens, and I liked this a lot. It reminds me of how many straight romances I’ve seen with much less anticipation behind them. Then the idea of modern families and what that ultimately means is explored. And the film remains light despite the angst of the main character undergoing a whirlwind of emotions, suddenly being forced to come out. But it manages to avoid being, as it were, a Coming Out movie. The love between the main couple seems so natural it’s gone way beyond mere coming out. Oh, and they’re Californian surfers, so they have nice bodies.

It’s not like it’s perfect – the kid character isn’t explored enough in the movie, and the sister’s homophobia was unprecedented and obviously only there to create conflict, for example. Also, they have that slightly creepy “I’m only gay for you in particular” vibe. But I really think this is the movie that all those shit movies I watched in 2007 should aspire to be. I was quite sad to discover on IMDB that almost none of the principal cast or crew have gone on to make new movies, as I thought the direction and cinematography were done very well and I was hoping to catch another movie by the same director. Oh well.

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