Benno Schoberth's "Shelter" is a maudlin, dramatically bogus account of the downward spiral of two desperate brothers and a young woman who escape the Gotham streets for an even worse time on the Long Island beach. Though it has strong backing from the Independent Feature Project, commercial prospects are grimmer than the pic itself.

Losing interest by the reel, Benno Schoberth’s “Shelter” is a maudlin, dramatically bogus account of the downward spiral of two desperate brothers and a young woman who escape the Gotham streets for an even worse time on the Long Island beach. Pic’s early attention on reclusive and super-shy Ray (Ray Santiago) has a fascinating, meditative quality, but this gives way to risible narrative devices and character dynamics. Though it has strong backing from the Independent Feature Project (it won group’s work-in-progress prize last year, and was just featured at IFP’s Berlin showcase), commercial prospects are grimmer than pic itself.

Incapable of caring for his dying mother, Ray resorts to stifling her with a pillow and seeking help from neighbor Maria (Marilyn Soto Santiago), who has her own problems with drug addiction and an unwanted pregnancy. With surer writing, pic might have managed the difficult transition in setting from city to country, but the irritating dominance of Ray’s older gay hooker brother Spider (John Rafael Peralta) — along with the fact Soto Santiago never looks close to pregnant — undoes the film’s serious underpinnings.

Shelter

Production

A Whirligig Production presentation. (International sales: Greenberg Traurig, New York.) Produced by Lynn Cassaniti, Anthony Artis. Directed, written by Benno Schoberth.

Crew

Camera (color, 16mm-to-DV), Brian Nisbett; editors, Schoberth, Lynn Cassaniti; music, Anton Sanko; art director, Les Genser; set decorator, Julie Gamble; costume designer, Munee Hayes. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival, Jan. 19, 2004. (Also in Cinequest Film Festival.) Running time: 75 MIN. Narration: Angie Cruz.

With

Ray Santiago, Marilyn Soto Santiago, John Rafael Peralta, Stacie Linardos, Alejandro Garcia.

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