By Steve Warren – Contributing Film Critic

Romeo meets Romeo on surfboards; coming-out tale only goes shoreline deep

BEACH BOY: Best buddy Gabe (Ross Thomas) gets ready to catch the next wave.

We all go through periods of indecision. Where we’re unsure about career goals, education, where to go on vacation, what color to paint the kitchen and, of course, sexual orientation. When we play back the movies of our lives in our heads, these parts don’t always make the best cinema.

Filmmaker Jonah Markowitz apparently disagrees. His hero, Zach (Trevor Wright) spends most of "Shelter" going through the stages of coming out, first to himself and then to others.

A surfer, graffitist and short-order cook who wants to go to art school but doesn’t want to go to art school, Zach lives with his sister Jeanne (Tina Holmes, "Edge of Seventeen") and her five-year-old son Cody (Jackson Wurth).

Zach spends so much time taking care of Cody, the boy thinks he’s his father. But this is San Pedro, Calif., not Kentucky. They’re not wealthy, but Zach’s best friend, Gabe (Ross Thomas), is. While Gabe’s away at college, his estranged brother, Shaun (Brad Rowe) comes back for a visit.

Shaun and Zach go surfing together like any two regular dudes. Shaun is taking a break from L.A., where he just ended a relationship. For years, Zach had an on-and-off girlfriend, Tori (Katie Walder). They’re currently off, though still best friends. And when Zach gives Billy (Albert Reed) permission to hit on her, Billy says, "What are you, a fag? She’s hot!"

Shaun is surprised to learn that Zach read his first novel, which was apparently gay and autobiographical. They continue hanging out, and one night they have a few beers, a few kisses and … fadeout.

Zach does a little time in denial but gets over it. Then Jeanne gets suspicious and asks him if he’s a fag. She’s in no position to be judgmental but she’s homophobic. The story continues about the way you expect it to — if you’ve ever seen or lived a coming-out story.

Wright is a decent enough actor. He looks like the kind of guy who might be your second or third choice in a bar. But if you went home with him, you’d probably want to see him again. Rowe ("Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss") continues his career as a D-list Brad Pitt, the coincidence of their first names only emphasizing their resemblance.

Markowitz doesn’t do anything wrong. He just doesn’t do anything very original. If you want to see another coming-out story you could do worse than "Shelter."


Director: Jonah Markowitz
Cast: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes, Ross Thomas and Joy Gohring

Opens April 18 in Regent Highland Park Village.
1 hr. 28 min.        R

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 18, 2008.

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