Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Inside Out: Hot surfer-on-surfer action in Shelter

Beach bums burn up light romantic drama

One guy looks like Jesse Bradford (sort of). One guy looks like Guy Pearce (more so). And on screen, they look like they’re starring in a buddy comedy.

But that’s before they start flirting.

Shaun (Brad Rowe) returns to the family beachhouse in San Pedro to recover from a failed relationship. Meanwhile, Zach (Trevor Wright). a slacker urban artist, is getting stuck constantly babysitting his irresponsible sister’s son.

They’re both frustrated. To get out of their uncomfortable inner life, they both reach for the same thing: their wetsuits.

And that’s when things go horribly, horribly right for gay audiences.

In the first act, we see the pouty-lipped, green-eyed Zach mope around San Pedro, practicing his spray-paint-and-magic-marker trade on stores, mailboxes, picnic tables and the walls of the house he shares with his sister Jeanne (Tina Holmes) and her son Cody (Jackson Wurth).

Zach and Cody get lots of face time. Zach blends father/brother/uncle roles, giving up his evenings to bail out his party-animal sister. Zach even babysits during his shifts as a short-order cook at a diner (an interesting gender reversal on the traditional lipsticked single mom/waitress trope.)

Meanwhile, Zach doesn’t realize that Shaun is gay. Actually, he’s not sure he’s gay either. The gradual beer-fuelled realization of their mutual attraction is a sweet and tender puppy-dog affair. The chemistry is convincing, even as Zach struggles with his own feelings (and an art school application.)

Shaun and Zach are also great with the kid; they’re the kind of rough-around-the-edges men’s men our mothers dream of us finding. Once director Jonah Markowitz has established that they’re the West Coast’s hang 10 Romeo and Juliet, the third act complications and resolution are modest and the film gently sails off into the sunset.

The film hits most of the right notes for a light romantic drama. Gabe (Ross Thomas) is both Shaun’s little brother and Zach’s best friend. While technically he’s the reason for the boys’ meeting, Thomas’s performance is so painful, the film ought to have been recut without him. As well, Tori (Katie Walder), Zach’s on-again off-again girlfriend leads a subplot audiences could probably have done without ? replaced, perhaps, with more pouting or more cuddling between our winsome heroes.

But that’s quibbling. Shelter is a surfer movie, one that rarely reaches beyond its means. In short, a good film for a quiet weeknight in Ottawa.