Starring Michael Paré, Lauren Alexandra, Rachel G. Whittle, Amy Wickenheiser
Directed by John Fallon
We who live in big cities see homeless people all the time. They’re often standing on the freeway off-ramps with their pleas written in Sharpie on cardboard, panhandling by ATM machines, haunting lonely alleys, or sleeping in the alcoves of closed businesses. They are homeless, but they are also people. Who are they? How did they land headfirst into such a sad, hopeless fate?
One possible scenario is explored by writer-director John Fallon in his first feature, The Shelter. Michael Paré plays Thomas, a grizzled, jobless widower who’s found himself not only down on his luck, but without a home. He lives off the charity of strangers — some more strange than others, but most of them just happen to be good-looking young women (and the first one we meet, for some inexplicable reason, lets him have his fill in her bed but not her refrigerator). At first it’s hard to tell exactly what this gruff, hard-drinking man’s allure is or what he’s up to. But we soon see he’s surrounded by a supernatural force-field… is it one of benevolence or bedevilment? As the religious iconography swirls about, we begin to understand that Thomas is haunted by a very troubled past.
By and by, Thomas finds shelter. The shelter. It’s like a beacon, beckoning him to step inside. He really should know better, but Thomas is cold, hungry and exhausted. Not to mention plagued by flashback memories of his former life – one in which he had a wife and a daughter. And a mistress. But I digress. At this point, Thomas is just happy to find an inviting open front door, roast chicken in the kitchen, and running water for a nice, hot bath.
After he’s sated and scrubbed, he watches TV for a while, then nods off. Thomas eventually wakes up, finding a loaded revolver in his lap. The message from Above is clear: Kill yourself. But he’s not as willing to leave the mortal coil as he is to ditch the shelter. But when he tries to exit, he finds it’s like the old “roach motel” – you can check in, but you can’t check out.
Paré, doing most of his acting alone and in relative silence, is a standout. He’s got to carry this whole film on his shoulders, and he does it ably. The supporting cast is up to par, but they’re basically peripheral characters. It’s Paré’s parade, lock and stock. A moody score and atmospheric cinematography bolster the sometimes too leisurely proceedings (the movie is only 76 minutes long but feels longer).
Overall The Shelter is enjoyable, well made and ably acted. It is definitely worth a look for fans of psychological slow burns.