a film by Jonah Markowitz
2007 | 97 mins | US
›› Shelter
a well-crafted tale of gay love, surfing style
Shelter by Jonah Markowitz Not to be confused with the girls in love feature of the same name that screened at this years London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, this work from writer and director Jonah Markowitz is definitely one for the boys; although like its Italian counterpart, relationship issues lie at its heart and soul.

For this is the story of Zach; a gifted artist with a liking for street art whose longing for higher education is cast to the wind when he finds himself taking care of his sick father alongside the demands of his sister Jeanne, a girl who views him more as an on-call childminding service for her son Cody, than a brother. Yet all that is about to change when Zach's surfing buddy Gabe temporarily exits stage left, only for his elder brother Shaun to emerge stage right, much to the concern of Jeanne who warns Zach that "you know about him - right?" that "he's gay." Not that this arrived as headline news, given Zach had already gained first hand experience of the fact and a sexual preference that he must now balance with the needs of his sister, nephew and lover, let alone his desire to study art in the world outside small town America!

Shelter by Jonah Markowitz Complete with a series of sensuous stripped-to-the-waist scenes, this cinematic ode to gay love has a lot going for it. Yet behind all the scenic Malibu shots and surfing sequences complete with the requisite 'hey dude' lingo, lies a depiction of life at working class level, with jobs in diners and supermarkets a stark contrast to the stereotypical surfer lifestyle of beach barbecues, long boards and high waves. Only into such a mix, Markowitz adds the issue of gay parenting, courtesy of Zach's gradual acceptance of his homosexuality being at odds with the homophobic stance of his sister, concerned as she is over positive role models for her son, all the while getting up close and personal with a Kinsey zero who holds little interest in the welfare of her child.

That Zach happens to fall in love with his best friend's big brother is a neat ploy played with zeal by the two leads, only to find stiff competition coming from Ross Thomas who shines in his role of straight surfer Gabe, at ease with the sexuality of his fraternal and surfing brothers. To that end, Brad Rowe as Shaun but seemingly forever of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss fame gets down to some manly hanky panky with Trevor Wright as Zach - and well who wouldn't! Yet in depicting how the more mature man of the piece strives to make his young lover realise his hopes and dreams, Markowitz adds many a narrative bonus, with Zach's subtle outing of his true sexuality to Shaun a tender touch.

But then, such is but one of many. Indeed it's almost as if Markowitz went through a checklist of stunning surf photography (courtesy of photographic director David Warshauer), an engaging supporting cast (with Tina Holmes as Jeanne hitting all the right irritative notes), a cute kid (in the form of Jackson Wurth as Cody), erotic boy-on-boy action, video style montages, lush eye-candy and the mandatory evocative soundtrack and ticked them off one by one. No surprise to learn then, that this finely tuned work was made by the film division of the US gay television network HERE!, who yet again have come up trumps with this well-crafted tale of gay love, one that's definitely worth taking refuge in. Need more be said?

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - strictly from the waist up. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.

›› Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk.
available on DVD as part of the TLA Releasing UK catalogue
starring: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes, Jackson Wurth, Katie Walder,
Matt Bushell, Ross Thomas, Albert Reed, Don Margolin
Copyright 2008 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #176
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