Shelter (2007)

I know, I know, I’m late again for Film Review Friday but WORSE THAN THAT! I just discovered tonight I’ve NEVER POSTED A REVIEW OF MY FAVORITE GAY FILM OF ALL TIMES!!!

So we’re about to fix that!

Shelter (2007)
 Dir. Jonah Markowitz
 Stars: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe
 Rated R
 97 mins.
 IMDB 7.9

Okay, to preface this whole review: Of all the gay films I’ve seen (which, admittedly, is not THAT many), this is by far the best one of them all. Even if others are much more dynamic and have better cinematography and bigger named stars, this one is still THE BEST.

Let me tell you why!

To start with, the story of Shelter is one about a young artist, Zach, and his life. Living in poverty with his older sister, who is a single mom, Zach spends most of his time helping look after his nephew, Cody. Zach’s best friend, Gabe, is from a wealthy family, and the story begins as Gabe is preparing to leave for college. Zach and his long-term on-again-off-again girlfriend are on a break, Zach’s sister and her boyfriend are always in and out, and Zach spends most of his time skateboarding around town tagging buildings as his only real expression of his artistic talents. When Gabe’s older brother moves back into the house Gabe lived at to work on his latest book, Zach meets him when he comes to pick up his surf board he’d left behind. Shaun and Zach begin to spend time together, and it starts something that will change Zach’s life forever.

Now that you know the basic premise, let me explain to you why this is the best gay film I’ve ever seen:

It’s a love story that happens to be about two men.

That’s honestly the reason it’s the best. It isn’t just a movie where the only real conflict is that it is about two men, it’s a love story that could work basically the exact same without the gay factor.

I know we all love the hetero guilt films that pretty much exist to show how horrible it is to be gay and make straight people proud of themselves for crying over the usual AIDS/Suicide/Murder plot, and I’m not being sarcastic, some of them really ARE good, but my biggest praise for this movie is that it’s just a love story about gay people, not a gay love story.

Yes, the gay is a factor in what makes these two struggle with their relationship, but the biggest problems are not even about that.


Things that are a bigger deal than the gayness include:

  • Zach being poor while Shaun is wealthy
  • Zach feeling obligated to put his family first while Shaun urges him to be a free spirit
  • Zach being early 20s while Shaun is in his 30s
  • Zach’s sister being a poor mother and leaving parenting duties over Cody to Zach
  • Zach’s dreams of going to art school being within his grasp while he doesn’t have the courage to reach for them alone

The BIGGEST issue is the position in life. I can say as someone who has lived life in a position closer to Zach’s than Shaun’s, some of the things Shaun talks about is just so ‘wtf?!’ it’s amazing he and Zach can even understand each other. A good example of this is a scene in which Shaun is talking about spending the summer abroad with some friends and CASUALLY asks, “So, you ever been to Europe? There’s tons of great art there, you’d like it” and when Zach is like “Yeah, I’d love to go some day”, Shaun’s response is, “Well you should go!”

… yeah, because someone can ‘just go’ to Europe. One day someone can wake up and go, “Huh, I think I’m going to go spend a month in Europe this summer.” That’s TOTALLY realistic. Gah. That just always makes me go “WHO ARE YOU?!” even though I KNOW he and Zach end up getting through their differences.

Also related to the position in life, the way that Zach always puts his nephew first. Cody is the center of Zach’s world. Zach is the only father figure he has, and he can’t just go to art school just because he wants too, he has to think about where Cody is in all of this.

So yes, being gay is a factor, but there’s a lot more important stuff happening to cause conflict.

At the end of it all, the reason I love this movie so much is it’s such a sweet love story with such a happy ending, and most of all, this movie could work ALMOST exactly as well if Zach were a girl, not a guy, so it’s not a gay movie, it’s a movie about a gay couple.

I honestly don’t know why there aren’t more gay films out there that aren’t 100% about the struggles of being gay and are more about the rest of the struggles faced by a couple falling in love who happen to both be men.

And since Queer Films are all a little harder to rate, since you really have to rate them against each other, not all films, and this one is ABOVE AND BEYOND any gay film and almost any queer film….

My Rating: 9/10


About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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8 Responses to Shelter (2007)

  1. Becky says:

    Have you seen “Jongens”? I’d love to read your review of that. I think it’s adorable.

    So I have always been a fan of Shelter and am extremely disappointed there is no novel adaptation of it. Latter Days has one why can’t this?

    Great review.


    • Thanks!

      I don’t know. I’ve never read novelizations of films. I am a firm believer that what works in film and what works in books is totally different (I’m a film student, so I know what can and can’t work on screen the way it does in books) so I tend to treat movies and books as 100% separate works.

      And I haven’t, but I will check “Jongens” out for sure!


  2. This is one of my favorite films. It kills me that it isn’t three hours long and we get more. And I am sad there is no novel adaptation.

    Have you seen “Jongens”? I would love to hear your opinion.


  3. I always felt bad for Zach. He was such a good guy. I just wish there was more here.

    Did you ever review Brokeback Mountain?


    • No, and I doubt I will because I absolutely hate that movie. I’ve sat through it twice before, I’m probably never going to sit through it again.

      It’s just a really bad movie. Other than good actors, it’s just a really boring movie with a boring story, in my opinion. So I doubt I’ll ever sit through it to review it again and it came out WAY before I made this blog.


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