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I’m a fan of movies that deal with a gay guy who is struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. There’s just something touching and nostalgic about watching the main character discover his feelings for another man and begin to sort through the emotional obstacle course made up of love, desire, fear, doubt, and guilt.
One such movie that stands out in my mind is Shelter, the 2007 movie about a young man, Zach, living in California. Where Shelter differs from other great coming out movies, like Latter Days and Rock Haven, is that Zach’s major conflict isn’t so much about his religion, but his family.
Zach lives with his older sister, her live-in boyfriend (at least I don’t get the impression their married) and his five year old nephew. Zach works at odd jobs to help support his sister and little Cody, who sees his uncle as a major father figure. Zach’s life begins to change when is best friend’s older brother, Shaun, comes to town for an extended stay. Zach and Shaun fall in love, and quickly finds his desire to be with Shaun quickly coming into conflict with his family obligations. His sister, Jeanne, is concerned about her son being around all that “gay stuff” and doesn’t think it’s healthy environment. (Strangely, Jeanne isn’t all that concerned that her live-in boyfriend is asking her to go to Oregon for six months and leave Cody behind.) Despite Shaun’s undying adoration of Cody and his willingness to make Cody a part of any plans he and Zach might have, the family conflict leads to problems in the couple’s budding relationship.
In addition to the conflict between love and obligations to a family that doesn’t approve of gay relationships, this film weaves in the extra dimensions of different family backgrounds. While Zach and his sister have lived a difficult life with plenty of hard luck and few breaks, Shaun comes from a well-to-do family. This difference leads to differences in perspective and different approaches to their problems, adding to the conflict.
All of these elements are handled well, or at least as well as they can be in a 97 minute movie. It makes for a touching and heartfelt story, and one that I could personally identify with on many levels.