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The sparks fly between two surfer guys (Trevor Wright and Brad Rowe) in the fine romance "Shelter."

When romance blossoms onscreen, minor glitches can be ignored. A slight script mishap or an undeveloped secondary character fades from memory once the romantic stars align and shine.

In the sweet and sexy romance "Shelter," the chemistry between two surfer guys magnetically played by Brad Rowe ("Billy's Hollywood Screen Test") and newcomer Trevor Wright is so electric, so palatable that even the most ardent nitpickers won't break a sweat over the small stuff. They'll be too captivated to care.

Set in Southern California, this lovely little coming-out and falling-in-love tale refreshingly sidesteps genre cliches. That's especially apparent in how Zach (Wright), a young adult caregiver in a dysfunctional family, reacts to his unexpected attraction to a friend's older brother, a studly writer named Shaun (Rowe).

Zach's sudden same-sex attraction confuses him, but it doesn't send the budding artist into a self-loathing tailspin, which happens in many coming-out films. Instead, the relationship leads to a series of romantic encounters — a Frisbee-playing beach flirtation, a surprise kissing session in bed, and inevitably a fiercely amorous show of pent-up emotion. Of course, the relationship encounters some choppy waters.

The greatest problem comes in the form of Zach's flighty, manipulative sister and her latest in a string of beaus. Luckily, first-time writer and director Jonah Markowitz avoids turning them into easy stereotypes just to tug the plot along.


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That said, he might have wanted to spend a little more time filling in the back story of Zach's father, who is only fleetingly seen zonked-out on a couch.

But that's more of a quibble than a complaint. What matters to any fan of romantic dramas is the natural interplay between its two stars, and Rowe and Wright make for a perfect match. Add a cute but not overly precocious nephew, a super soundtrack and a couple of glorious slow-mo surfing sequences and you wind up with one of 2008's best screen romances so far.

Reach Randy Myers at rmyers @bayareanewsgroup.com.

'SHELTER'

B+

Starring: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes, Jackson Wurth

Director: Jonah Markowitz

Rated: R for language, some sexual content and brief drug use

Now Playing: Elmwood, Berkeley; Embarcadero, S.F.

Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes