Sometimes referred to as the "gay surfer movie," Shelter is actually much more than that. It's about a sweet romance between Zach, a young man with a lot of artistic talent and a difficult family life, and Shaun, the older brother of Zach's best friend Gabe, a writer who has come back to his old home after a break-up. Zach and Shaun begin spending time together, both surfing and otherwise, and eventually fall for each other, despite the fact that Zach had been in an on-again, off-again relationship with a girl, Tori. Zach has to learn to navigate being there for his young nephew Cody (whose father is never seen and whose mother, Zach's sister Jeanne, often seems uninterested in), deciding whether or not to go to art school, and being in a new relationship with a man.
This film contains examples of:
- The Beard: Tori for Zach.
- Closet Key: Shaun for Zach.
- Closet Shuffle: Whoops, Gabe's home!
- Cluster F-Bomb: The breakup scene in Zach's car.
- Falling in Love Montage: Not so much a series of dates as a series of scenes of them either in bed, surfing, or hanging out with Cody, but definitely them falling in love, to the sound of Shane Mack's "Lie To Me".
- Incompatible Orientation: The implied reason why Zach and Tori's relationship was so complicate. He however states that he truly liked her and that she was the only reason he wished he wasn't. She knew.
- Intertwined Fingers: At the end, when Zach has gotten back together with Shaun and is showing Jeanne that they're going to take care of Cody together.
- Insistent Terminology: Larry is Shaun's step-dad not his dad.
- Papa Wolf: Zach doesn't take it well when Jeanne's boyfriend yells at Cody.
- Parental Neglect: Jeanne with Cody.
- Promotion to Parent: Zach for Cody — Cody's mom may be around, but she's not the most responsible parent. Cody even sees Zach as his dad rather than his uncle.
- Perma Stubble: Shaun.
- Queer Romance
- Sad Times Montage: Shortly after Zach breaks up with Shaun.
- Second-Act Breakup
- Sexy Shirt Switch: Gabes notices that Zach wears Shaun's shirt.
- Starving Student: Zach.
- Straight Gay: Neither of them are particularly flamboyant or stereotypically gay (except maybe for the time Shaun is wearing a robe and scarf, but that's only because he's trying to embody a character in his book).