ATTENTION: as you continue reading you may come across spoiler are Shelter.
Harlan Coben, for those who don’t know, is an American writer from over sixty million copiestranslated into over forty languages and the only winner, so far, of the three most prestigious literary prizes related to the genre mystery: Edgard Awards, Shamus Award e Anthony Award.
It is not a case that Amazon Studios e Netflix they compete for it with millions. For the moment the writer is under contract with the Los Gatos house which has decided to develop well fourteen of his novels. But this millionaire, five-year contract did not prevent him from giving up the rights to one of his characters, Mickey Bolitarto the rival who distributed the eight episodes of Shelter, Harlan Coben’s Shelter the original title, which was last published by Prime Video this Friday, September 22, 2023.
Because of this long-term project Amazon subsidiary is entrusted fully to the Coben family. The television adaptation of the novel, in fact, was not only edited by the novelist himself by daughter Charlotte (father and daughter have already collaborated in The Stranger and the one already mentioned Stay Close). They were joined by Ben Pack, Alfredo Barrios Jr. (Six e Burn notice), Ed Decter (Everyone is crazy about Mary, Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments) e Allen MacDonald (Body of Proof e CSI – Crime Scene).
Behind the camera, however, they took turns among the others Edward Ornelas (Fear The Walking Dead e Locke & Key), Patricia Cardoso (The Society) e Deborah Kampmeier (Star Trek: Picard e Hounddog). For photography he was chosen John B. Aronson (American Horror Story) while for the soundtrack the honors were awarded to Hannah Parrot already author of the music of The Magnificent 7 directed by Antoine Fuqua.
The story takes place in New Jersey. Mickey (Jaden Michael), a very promising young basketball player, is survived a car accident in which his father lost his life. The last images the boy sees before losing consciousness are those of a nurse with a disturbing scar on the face that, as he picks up his dying father, smiles evilly at him.
A few months later the boy lives with his aunt (Constance Zimmer), her father’s sister, who doesn’t have the slightest maternal instinct but has to take care of her nephew because her brother asked her to in a phone call a few hours before he died, as if he already knew the unfortunate fate he will face.
Mickey starts school, the classic high school, and is loved at first sight in return Ashley (Samantha Bugliaro), aspiring cheerleader which disappears from circulation in the blink of an eye. The boy asks adults for help but no one seems to be available to help him. So, he decides to investigate with the help of two new friends, Spoon (Adrian Greensmith) ed Ema (Abby Corrigan), the first nerd and the second gothic asocial. The three, after uniting in an old-time friendship, will throw their hearts beyond the obstacle and begin investigations on their own discovering a sordid trafficwhich even began in Europe during World War II, which they will have to put an end to at any cost.
Shelter it’s a crime thriller enriched by some references horror. The fact that the protagonists are three teenagers also makes it a teen drama to all effects. And as such it has all those typical characteristics: adults incapable of listening to teenagers incapable of explaining themselves, dysfunctional families convinced they can appear in advertisements for Mulino Bianco, loves that are born and die in the space of a moment, secrets and lies, misunderstandings and betrayals. And naturally, a very great and very strong sense of friendshipof those who I would do anything for you, even die.
Starting from these considerations for the first three episodes the story proceeds in a rather rapid manner, resulting interesting and pleasant, even exciting. The cards that the authors offer the viewer are such as to entice him to continue watching. Thus, episode after episode, while the plot thickens, the main enigma rises also thanks to small but effective twists some of them even intriguing.
At a certain point, however, something goes wrong. The elements brought into play by the authors are starting to be too many and to show a certain fragility causing the entire structure of the series to swing. And what could have been an interesting, fun season, useful for passing the time without too many thoughts, ends, for example, with one of the most popular endings in recent years. So obvious that it makes the viewer burst into amused, almost incredulous laughter.
And that’s a shame. Seriously. Why Shelter it is certainly not a masterpiece nor the most beautiful series we will see in 2023. It is, however, a pleasant product to look at, which never descends into excessive generational conflict, capable of tackling topics already seen and revisited such as mourning, love and friendship from an interesting point of view. However, it has the flaw of wanting to put too many irons in the fire condemning itself, irremediably, to oblivion. Despite, for example, the performance of almost all his actors, especially those who occupy adolescent roles. Who, starting from the trio of investigators and ending with the classic school bullies, are all good, capable of transmitting strong emotions but above all they are credible because they are concretealmost palpable, not entangled in melassate useless despite, in fact, playing rather obvious roles.
Even the actors who played the adults, who were assigned roles that were perhaps a little too stereotyped, were good at characterizing their characters managing to give them meaning despite the lack of stage presence and the lack of relevance to the story. In fact, they are a little disconnected from the overall narrative, appearing useful only to get the kids out of trouble when necessary. Nonetheless, they carry on with their lives, revolutionizing them because of a past that seems to be part of the global narrative but in reality is not.
In the Seventies and Eighties, a series of books, published by, was very fashionable Mondadoriin the background mistery crime by title Mystery for kids. In this series the protagonists were, among others, Nancy Drew, I Pimlico Boys, The Hardy Boys e The three investigators whose main characteristics were that of being adolescents and endowed with an extraordinary investigative acumen that made them capable of solving the most complex mysteries.
Ecco, Shelter it’s very reminiscent of that kind of adventures and characters. Obviously in an inclusive and modern way (cell phones and app, internet and Lamborghini), perfectly suited to today. Nonetheless, it leaves a somewhat mild taste in the mouth. retro. Which may well be the case pleasant and entertaining or extremely irritating. Without compromise. As if the series distributed by Prime Video it was a big, last gamble, one of those make it or brake it. With the result, however, that the gamble failed completely.
With a little more attention to detail, a few fewer characters, greater attention to subplots and a little less repetitions, this first season would have been really successful, making the viewer forget the many paradoxical situations. Precisely these situations bordering on the credible, which become more and more frequent over the course of the eight episodes, tend to grow bigger and create a comic line which has no sense of existing (despite the character of Spoon having, in itself, a verve bright and funny) weakening the narrative structure.
Instead, if we take it too seriously as often happens today, we are left with a sense of incompleteness and dissatisfaction that makes us turn up our noses a bit, giving the impression of having wasted time looking at it.
In any case the plot twist final and some details scattered here and there are foreboding an upcoming second season which, we hope, can fix those details that worked less effectively Harlan Coben’s Shelter a refined product for an audience not only young.