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Film / Shelter

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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:

  • Addled Addict: Zach and Jeanne's father, who suffered a back injury at work and subsequently became addicted to painkillers. He is usually barely conscious and even Jeanne recognizes that he can't watch Cody for her, which is why she relies on Zach so much.
  • The Beard / Last Het Romance: Tori for Zach.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: Rather unusual for such a young kid, Cody tends to call his mother Jeanne, though he varies between this and "mom". It could be that he just follows Zach's example, as the latter actually takes up much more of a parental role for him.
  • Closet Key: Shaun for Zach.
  • Closet Shuffle: Whoops, Gabe's home!
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The breakup scene in Zach's car.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Zach eventually gets to this point with Jeanne at the end, no longer allowing her to use Cody as tool to manipulate him into doing what she wants.
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  • Disappeared Dad: Cody's biological father is mentioned, but never seen. It is implied that he simply left Jeanne when she had Cody.
  • Extreme Doormat: Zach to Jeanne. She verbally blasts him over his relationship with Shaun, trying to guilt trip him into breaking it off because she doesn't think it's what's best for Cody. She also insists that Zach shape his whole life around caring for Cody. Of course, even as she is doing this she is making plans to move away with her own boyfriend and leave Cody behind. It is stated repeatedly that Zach's mother was much the same way, and that caring for her useless addict husband led to her death.
  • 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".
  • Hidden Depths: Gabe seems like a shallow Surfer Dude, but he is actually very goodhearted. In addition to his childhood friendship with Zach, who is dirt poor in contrast to Gabe's rich family, he is also very supportive when he learns that Zach is gay. In fact, he's openly hurt that Zach never confided in him.
  • Incompatible Orientation: The implied reason why Zach and Tori's relationship was so complicated. 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. Gabe also refers to him as Larry, rather than as his father.
  • It's All About Me: Jeanne likes to be able to drink, party and sleep around, and often neglects Cody in order to do so. But she expects Zach to always be available to take care of her son, and gets angry when she doesn't know where he is and can't get in touch with him. She also opposes him going to art school because she worries it would make him less available. Her grudging acceptance of Zach's relationship with Shaun is mostly because she has no other choice, as she cannot bring Cody with her when she moves away with her boyfriend.
  • Karma Houdini: As much as how neglecting (toward Cody) and manipulative (toward Zach) Jeanne has been throughout the film, she got almost literally no commeuppance for her action; She abandons her child caretaking responsibility completely to move with her boyfriend to Oregon and give Cody to Zach and Shaun to live together with them.
  • Missing Mom: Zach and Jeanne's mother. Everyone speaks of her in the past tense, implying that she is dead. It is also more or less stated that she burned out taking care of her addicted husband and her children.
  • Moral Myopia: Jeanne is promiscuous, and doesn't hesitate to bring men home and get it on with them all over the house. But she is opposed to Zach even hanging around with Shaun, as she doesn't want Cody exposed to homosexuality which she claims is a bad influence and reputation for their family.
  • One-Word Title
  • Papa Wolf: Zach doesn't take it well when Jeanne's boyfriend yells at Cody.
  • Parental Abandonment: Jeanne ultimately leaves to move to Oregon with her boyfriend, who doesn't like kids.
  • 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).
  • Surfer Dude: Zach, Shaun and Gabe all qualify. Though there is more focus on the artistic and diligent sides of Zach and Shaun, as well as their romance with each other. Gabe is a straight example, though, as he provides the image for the page.
  • Taking Advantage of Generosity: Jeanne takes it for granted that Zach will take care of Cody and their father while she pursues her own goals. Tori has to explicitly point out to Zach that Cody is really Jeanne's responsibility, not his, and that she has no business dictating terms about how Zach lives his life.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: The contrast between the working class area where Zach's family lives and the wealthy beachfront community where Shaun and Gabe's family live. When visiting the latter, Cody even innocently asks Zach if they're still in California.

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