Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

‘Shelter in Solitude’: A heartfelt tale of compassion, and unlikely bonds amidst isolation

Courtesy Emerald Caz Production and EMFILM

“Shelter in Solitude,” written by and starring Siobhan Fallon Hogan, delves into the story of shared solitude among unlikely pairs. The dramatic comedy follows Jackson (Peter Macon), a writer and poet on death row with 10 days left to live, and Val (Fallon Hogan), a quirky and gaudy bar owner forced to close down her bar due to the onset of COVID lockdowns.

The film, directed by Vibeke Muasya, is set in a small town on the outskirts of Nashville during the initial stages of the pandemic when mandatory quarantine and mask mandates were enforced. 

In this poignant tale, three individuals find themselves grappling with loneliness. Val’s brother, a prison warden played by Robert Patrick, experiences solitude due to his crumbling marriage and inability to see his children. On the other hand, Val feels isolated because of her eccentricity and status as a washed-up country singer yearning to relive her glory days.

“[In the film] I’m kind of a cougar wannabe, and no one will have me, so I kind of live in a fantasy,” says Fallon Hogan in an interview with the Beacon. “So when COVID hits, that’s very significant for me because I’m used to performing at the bar every night and having attention and having instant friends in my lap.”

Not knowing what to do with herself, she takes up a job as a prison guard. 

The most palpable form of loneliness, according to Fallon Hogan, is embodied by Jackson. Being a prisoner inherently means spending an immeasurable amount of time alone. However, as a man facing the death penalty when COVID struck, Jackson also had to endure solitary confinement and give up his only friend—his prison guard—compounding his isolation. 

“Shelter in Solitude” was filmed over 16 days, mostly in downtown Syracuse and Fallon Hogan’s hometown Cazenovia, New York. 

“All the homes that you see are friends of mine’s homes, the roads are near my house,” she said.

When Val takes on the role of a prison guard, she is assigned to Jackson, and during their time together, they develop a profound bond of respect and friendship—emotions neither of them have experienced in a long time. Val, in her efforts to break the barriers, baked him cookies and attempted to bring laughter and emotional solace to his confined existence. 

“At the core of it all, they’re the example for me of what America should get back to, it’s little acts of kindness like bringing a cookie, an inspiring passage or something,” said Fallon Hogan. “If we could all get back to that and put aside our political differences, our prejudices, the world would be a better place.”

In return, Jackson helps Val realize her worth, demonstrating that she deserves genuine male friendships and encouraging her to take herself seriously.

Val learns the harrowing truth behind Jackson’s sentence as their friendship deepens: he had repeatedly stabbed his daughter’s rapist. This revelation propels Val into action, prompting her to use every means at her disposal, mainly her brother, to advocate for Jackson’s release and reunite him with his daughter.

Although she only achieves one of those goals—reuniting Jackson and his daughter on his execution day—the scene unfolds in heartbreaking silence, punctuated by whispered “I’m sorry’s” and “I love you’s.” In this poignant moment, Jackson’s narrative transforms him from a dying criminal into what Fallon Hogan aptly describes as a “class act.”

This story extends beyond the bounds of an unlikely friendship; it delves deep into themes of misfortune, injustice, and the discovery of hope even in the most dire circumstances.

The creation of this film is deeply rooted in family bonds. Hogan collaborated intimately with her husband, Peter Hogan, who took on the producer role . Their daughter, Sinead Hogan, brought her creative prowess as the production designer, and their son, Peter Hogan, served as producer and music supervisor and portrayed Chris, an overbearing cop, adding depth and authenticity to the character’s portrayal.

In an interview with the Beacon, Peter Hogan shares his experience working with his mother and whether he felt pressure trying to impress her. 

“I thought I would feel awkward, but right when we did the first take, it just immediately went away, and I realized it was way better,” said Peter Hogan. 

He said the set was a breath of fresh air compared to many Hollywood sets, describing them as “egotistical with the actors.” 

“We honestly couldn’t give less of a fuck about that,” said Peter Hogan. “We’re like a family, the crew and the actors, and it’s just like any job. You’re just trying to get to the solution and get shit done.”

The inspiration for this story struck Fallon Hogan in the middle of the night, triggered by thoughts of her late father. 

“My dad was this big presence, and everybody loved him,” she said. “He was an attorney, and he would tell stories about the prisoners that he represented at the kitchen table when we were kids. I would be kinda terrified but also fascinated.”

Fallon Hogan revealed a particular instance when her father represented a prison guard at the Jamesville penitentiary, a place she would pass by every Sunday when traveling to visit family. This inspired her to create the friendship storyline between a prison guard and a man on death row. Her father had always wanted her to be a country singer in Nashville, so Val’s character is greatly inspired by her and her relationship with her father. 

Fallon Hogan describes the last few months of her father’s life—he had done so much dialysis, and she felt he didn’t want to suffer any longer. However, it was the words her father said in those last moments that truly set the tone for what she wanted to accomplish in “Shelter in Solitude.” 

“When the doctor tells him you don’t have to do this anymore if you don’t want to, my father said, ‘I don’t think I will. But you know, you have to have hope,’” said Fallon Hogan

“Shelter in Solitude” opened nationally on Oct. 6 and will be available on Amazon later this fall. The movie leaves the audience with its message of hope: even in difficult situations, we can rely on human connection.

“At the end of the day, it’s a story of hope, even in our last dying breath,” said Fallon Hogan.

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About the Contributor
Shannon Garrido
Shannon Garrido, Editor-in-chief
Shannon Andera Garrido Berges (she/her) currently serves as editor-in-chief, formerly she managed global content and covers news centered around the Caribbean. Her interests include Dominican politics, pop culture, and environmental reporting. She is an undergrad at Emerson College, majoring in Journalism.

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