2008, Movie, NR, 97 mins


Writer-director Jonah Markowitz's low-key coming-of-age/coming-out story isn't particularly original, but it does feature subtle performances and a vivid sense of place.

Coastal San Pedro's wealthy residents, like Gabe (Ross Thomas), live in handsome mansions overlooking the ocean. Its struggling, working-class families inhabit the cramped ranch houses lining its charmless downtown streets; Gabe's best friend, aspiring artist Zach (Trevor Wright) is one of them. Gabe, a hard-partying college student, is already well on his way to leaving town, just like his older brother, novelist and screenwriter Shaun (Brad Rowe), had done before him. Zach, who desperately wants to attend CalArts, is trapped at home, looking after his disabled father (Don Margolin) and 5-year-old nephew, Cody (Jackson Wurth); Zach's sister, Jeanne (Tina Holmes), isn't interested in motherhood and knows she can count on him to babysit while she goes cruising. Zach flips burgers for cash, surfs for fun, and keeps his artistic sensibilities alive by stenciling graffiti on abandoned buildings; his on-again/off-again relationship with childhood sweetheart Tori (Katie Walder) is rooted more in their shared past than in any sense that they have a future together. It's looking as though Zach's sense of responsibility is going to doom him to a dead-end life of being taken advantage of -- until, that is, Shaun blows back into town. On the run from a broken relationship, Shaun and his old surfing buddy start hanging out. One thing leads to another -- starting with the inevitable drunken kiss -- and a world of possibility opens up for Zach, if he can find a way to balance his own dreams with his family's demands.

Produced by the television network Here!, this is the gay equivalent of a made-for-WE drama: Anyone looking for raunchy nudity, random hookups and sizzling sex scenes should look elsewhere. Markowitz's film is all about feelings, and Wright makes Zach more than the sum of his sexual dilemma: Coming out is easier than standing up to Jeanne, who's selfish enough to use Cody as a weapon. And Markowitz captures a real sense of the contradictions of living in San Pedro, a blue-collar town a few hours drive from Los Angeles and a world away: Beach culture may bring the haves and have-nots together, but their opportunities will always be dramatically different. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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