Shelter (2007 film)

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Directed by Jonah Markowitz
Produced by JD Disalvatore
Written by Jonah Markowitz
Starring Trevor Wright
Brad Rowe
Tina Holmes
Ross Thomas
Music by J. Peter Robinson
Cinematography Joseph White
Editing by Michael Hofacre
Distributed by here! Films
Regent Releasing (US)
Release dates
  • June 16, 2007 (2007-06-16) (Frameline Film Festival)
  • March 21, 2008 (2008-03-21) (United States)
Running time 88 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $142,666[1]

Shelter is a 2007 American film directed and written by Jonah Markowitz. It stars Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, and Tina Holmes. It was the winner of "Outstanding Film – Limited Release" at the 2009 GLAAD Media Awards, Best New Director and Favorite Narrative Feature at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, and the People's Choice Award for Best Feature at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. Shelter represents the feature directorial debut of Markowitz.


Zach (Trevor Wright) is an aspiring artist living in San Pedro, California, who has put off his dreams of going to art school in order to work and help his older sister Jeanne (Tina Holmes), his disabled father, and his five-year-old nephew Cody (Jackson Wurth), whom he cares for most of the time when Jeanne does not feel like looking after him. Working as a short-order cook to make ends meet, Zach escapes during his free time to paint, draw murals, surf, and hang out with his best friend Gabe (Ross Thomas), as well as with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Tori (Katie Walder).

When Gabe’s older brother Shaun (Brad Rowe) comes back home from Los Angeles for a few weeks, Zach and Shaun develop a close friendship as they go surfing together. Shaun, who is a published writer, encourages Zach to take control of his life and pursue his ambition of going to CalArts, a large university of the arts. One night after drinking, Zach and Shaun share a kiss. However, Zach is not prepared to give in to his feelings immediately and struggles with whether or not he may be gay. Soon, however, he gives in and makes love with Shaun. Following this, Jeanne questions who Zach is seeing, noticing his abrupt happy behavior, before revealing her boyfriend Alan (Matt Bushell) is heading to Portland for job reasons and needs him to look after Cody, hoping to have the weekend to herself. Zach is unsure, but agrees. When Shaun calls him, hoping to spend the weekend with Zach, Zach says he can't since he has to look after Cody. Shaun insists he bring Cody over, surprising Zach, and the three have a great time together. Zach and Shaun's relationship soon develops into a romance, while at the same time Shaun builds a strong bond with Cody.

Happiness soon begins to fall short when Gabe comes home to see Shaun, who is in bed with Zach and hoping to convince him to move away with him, resulting in Zach sneaking out of the house when Gabe is distracted. Later, Gabe is out with Zach and Shaun and it soon becomes clear that Zach is hesitant to come out about his relationship with Shaun. Once home, Jeanne reveals that she's learned that he has been spending time with Shaun and is furious that he has been letting Cody spend time with Shaun as well since he is gay. She insists that since Cody lost his father, he needs him to be a positive influence and demands he keep Cody away from Shaun. At a party later that night, Zach ends things with Shaun, reasoning that he is not like him and is new to being in a gay relationship. Shaun tells him that it is obvious it is what he wants and calls him a coward for being too afraid to take what he wants in life. The next day, while at work cleaning, Gabe shows up and reveals that he knows about his relationship with Shaun and is okay with it. Zach and Shaun's relationship is mainly strained by his sense of obligation to support his family versus his relationship with Shaun and his desire to pursue his own dreams.

Shaun secretly submits Zach's art school application and Zach is eventually accepted on full scholarship. When Alan gets a job in Portland, Jeanne is required to move and hopes to leave Cody with Zach for awhile, anywhere from a few months to possibly a year, until she can get settled. Zach is forced to decide between putting others first and neglecting his own dreams—as he has always done—and fighting for what he truly wants, both for himself and Cody. Later, he tries to tell Tori about his relationship with Shaun, only to find out she already knows and is supportive. After Zach finally decides to finally move forward with his art career, he goes to see Shaun and confesses that he has been accepted into the school many times in the past, but always put it off to look after his family. After saying that he is finally going for what he wants in life, he re-affirms his love for Shaun and the two reconcile, making plans to move in together near the school.

Following this, he goes to see Jeanne and Alan who are preparing to leave. Zach boldly walks in front of her hand in hand with Shaun, no longer hiding. She wants to know if he is "bailing on her" and Zach tells her that she is the one who is abandoning her son. He tells her that Shaun is a good guy who cares about him and Cody and that a life with them is what is best for Cody. He also tells her that he now plans on making the life he wants to finally work for him. Jeanne relents, accepting what is truly best for Cody, and leaves him in the care of Zach and Shaun as she goes to form her own life with Alan. The film ends with Zach, Shaun and Cody happily playing on the beach together as a family.



Shelter was filmed in 21 days, primarily in San Pedro and Laguna Beach, California, with additional shooting in Bel Air and Malibu, California. A visual focal point throughout the film is the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles Harbor.

The artwork depicted in the film was the work of L.A. artist Ryan Graeff, whose street art appears across the region and is published in his zine The Restitution Press.

The motion picture soundtrack features original music by Nashville singer and songwriter Shane Mack, and The White Buffalo among others.


Shelter debuted at the 31st Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco on June 16, 2007 and ran in theaters through July 24, 2008. The film was released on DVD on May 27, 2008 in the United States. The DVD includes production commentary by writer/director Jonah Markowitz and actors Trevor Wright and Brad Rowe.

The film was released on DVD in the UK on August 11, 2008, though the UK release does not include the commentary track. The film was released on Blu-ray in the UK in October 2011.


The soundtrack album, Shelter: Music from the Motion Picture, was released in 2008.[2]

  1. "Goin' Home" (written and performed by Bill Ferguson)
  2. "I Like That" (written and performed by Shane Mack)
  3. "No Way Home" (written and performed by Matt Pavolaitis and Brett Cookingham)
  4. "Pirate Sounds" (written by Ariel Rechtshald, Josh Kessler, Marc Ferrari, and Lewis Pesacov, performed by Matthew Popieluch)
  5. "Teenage Romanticide" (written by Jen Mitz, Nina Martinez, and Susan Gale, performed by Dance Yourself to Death)
  6. "Look for Love" (written and performed by Tony Valenzuela)
  7. "Darkness Descends" (written by Ariel Rechtshald, Josh Kessler, Marc Ferrari, and Lewis Pesacov, performed by Matthew Popieluch)
  8. "Vaporizer" (written and performed by Nicholas Viterelli)
  9. "What Do You Believe In" (written by Jeffrey S. Haycock, performed by The Vengers)
  10. "Trying" (written by Ariel Rechtshald, Josh Kessler, and Matthew Popieluch, performed by Matthew Popieluch)
  11. "Gimmie Clam" (written and performed by Nicholas Viterelli)
  12. "Break" (written and performed by Shane Mack)
  13. "Reflection" (written and performed by Todd Hannigan)
  14. "Lie to Me" (written and performed by Shane Mack)
  15. "Time to Time" (written by Stewart Lewis and Reed Foehl, performed by Stewart Lewis)
  16. "More Than This" (written and performed by Shane Mack)
  17. "Long Way Home" (written and performed by Shane Mack)
  18. "Remember to Forget" (written and performed by Shane Mack)
  19. "Cool of Morning" (written and performed by Matt Pavolaitis and Brett Cookingham)

Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 58% out of 19 professional critics gave the film a positive review.[3] Sid Smith from the Chicago Tribune said that "Shelter may only be shoreline deep, and its ending fanciful, but the film captures the beauty, thrill and ache of young love and extracts a casual joy out of the process."

Wesley Morris from The Boston Globe was more critical, stating that "Shelter is a gay movie like other American gay movies. Boy meets boy. Boy comes out. Boys fight opposition. Opposition caves. If there's life beyond the closet, too few movies know it exists."[4]

In praise of the film, David Weigand from the San Francisco Chronicle singled out "a superb performance by Trevor Wright in the lead role, a strong supporting cast, very good cinematography and, most of all, emotional authenticity", noting in particular Trevor Wright's "restrained and delicately balanced performance" as "the beating heart of the film from the start".[5]


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