Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
CUTTING—Help for Cutters (and others who self-injure in some way)
SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer
If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer
Death in the Bible
Is there an actual place called “Hell”? Answer
How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer
FORGIVENESS—How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer
GUILT—If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer
HYPOCRISY IN THE CHURCH—“I would never be a Christian; they’re a bunch of hypocrites.”
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
How can I deal with temptations? Answer
Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer
How good is good enough? Answer
|Featuring||Randy Wayne (Jake Taylor), Deja Kreutzberg (Amy Briggs), Joshua Weigel (Chris Vaughn), Steven Crowder (Doug Moore), D. David Morin (Mark Rivers), Sean Michael (Jonny Garcia), Bubba Lewis (Danny Rivers), Robert Bailey Jr. (Roger Dawson), See all »|
|Producer||New Song Pictures, Accelerated Entertainment, Jim Britts, Scott Evans, Steve Foster, Nicole Franco, Christina K.Y. Lee|
|Distributor||Samuel Goldwyn Films|
“Everyone has problems. Not everyone has faith.”
When I saw the movie “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry” this past year, I thought it would be a long while before I saw another cross-over film that was as good or as moving. That was before I went to see the film “To Save a Life.” If you don’t have time to read the rest of this article, but you are familiar with my reviews and trust them, then let me say it right up front, “Don’t miss this movie!” Make plans right now to go support this film.
If you have teenagers, if you are a youth pastor, or a high school or college group pastor, if you’re a teenager or a twenty-something struggling with “cutting” or rejection, if you’ve been surprised by an unwanted pregnancy, if you are a counselor, a teacher, or just a person who cares for others, then you should immediately plan to take your entire group, or just go by yourself to see this film today or (during the week)! Don’t even wait for the weekend!
I am not saying this just because I believe in supporting Christian-themed films. I am saying this because the watching of this film will undoubtedly “Save a Life.” I am not exaggerating; it is really that important. So many people have sent money to Haiti this week, and rightly so. But like many in America, you feel you want to do more. You can. Go see this film. The change that is possible from watching can reach all the way around the world. The “life that is saved” may be the next potential nurse or doctor or youth mission worker on their way to Haiti in the future.
“To Save a Life” is an indie film, produced by New Song Pictures (a division of New Song Community Church, in Oceanside, California) and Outreach Inc. [distributed by Samuel Goldwyn] about the current challenges of teens today, and the myriad of choices they are faced with on a daily basis. It is an amazing, well-written screenplay—by none other than—the church youth pastor from New Song, Jim Britts, who discovered, like so many people who work with young people today, that the number one influence in their lives is “the movies.” So, in Jim’s case, he simply wrote one. To quote Britts:
“I work with troubled teens everyday and see the severity of the poor choices they make. Movies are a powerful way to illustrate the consequences of making the wrong choice while reinforcing positive actions.”
The film is brilliantly directed by a well-known Hollywood cinematographer, Brian Baugh (“The Ultimate Gift,” “An American Carol”) and is co-produced by LA/New York veteran, Nicole Franco—in addition to Steve Foster, the Executive Pastor of New Song Community Church. The cast was terrific, and the leads did an outstanding job of acting. They were very strong.
The genre and setting is familiar: high school—one that we never seem to leave. We are either 1) in the process of anticipating going to high school, 2) we are actually in high school, or 3) we are re-living our high school memories—by attending reunions, or just fantasizing about how we would do things differently—if only we had the chance.
At this high school, Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne—“The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning”) is the super popular, good-looking, high school basketball star. Jake has it all: his girlfriend Amy, (Deja Kreutzberg—“CSI:Miami,” “As the World Turns”) the homecoming queen and all around “hottie,” the “cool” best-friend-since-sixth-grade and current party bud—Doug (Steven Crowder)—who everyone loves to admire, and Jake has the seemingly “perfect future” all planned out for him—complete with a college basketball scholarship offer to Louisville—which had been his life long dream.
Perfect it seemed, until “life happened.” In the age of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, kids are constantly interacting, but not everyone is included—as is seen in the tragedy that erupts early on in the story. In this case, “life” manifested as a tragic suicide on campus, by Jake’s boyhood friend, Roger Dawson (Robert Bailey)—right before his eyes. The opening of the film is at the graveside ceremony of his friend Roger, and you find all this out right in the beginning of the film, so I’m not giving too much away here.
What happens after this is what the film is all about. Naturally, Jake is distraught about what Roger had done, but more important, Jake is devastated about what he himself did not do. Even after sorting through his own guilt as to Roger’s suicide, he wondered, like anyone does, “could he have saved him?” This was after all, someone whom Jake slowly edged out of his life once he entered high school and rose in popularity.
Jake’s torment leads to a series of interactions with others, not the least of which was the Youth Pastor that spoke at his friend’s funeral. That meeting, coupled with visits to his local church, set Jake on a quest for answers: Was there more to life than this? Could he be happy with “my life is fine as it is” or was it true what the Pastor told him: “God wants so much more than ‘fine’ for your life”? Would he be willing to forsake his popularity and his dreams to follow after truth? The repercussions of his decisions from that point on are the rollercoaster ride that becomes the rest of the film. It’s a tight script that is believable from beginning to end. I mean every word.
The PG-13 rating was understandable, due to the strong themes: suicide, cutting, underage drinking, etc. There was no cursing in the film, which I found particularly pleasing. I believe the strongest word I heard was referring to a donkey’s rear end, and that was only once. There were several scenes of parties with high school aged drinking—where kids were playing “quarters” and “beer pong” that looked more like my college frat parties than high school ones—times have apparently changed. The main characters, Jake and Amy, did have relations (inferred) at one of the aforementioned parties, but no sexual scenes were shown—other than Jake under the blanket, and later putting on his jeans. I believe they showed his bare chest for maybe 1.5 seconds, and that was from a distance. There was some suggestive dancing for a few seconds on screen, and Amy was sort of scantily clothed at times throughout the film, but it was much tamer than most MTV videos that kids see on a daily basis. And finally, there was a scene on campus where the wayward Pastor’s son was smoking a joint for a few seconds on screen. Essentially, your average daily soap opera on day time television would be far more scandalous than anything in this film. Overall, the positive theme developing throughout the film completely overshadowed any strong content that was present. This film would be appropriate for most teens 13 and above and possibly even mature 11 or 12 year olds.
“To Save a Life” has all the ingredients to become a true catalyst for change, not just for the unbeliever, but for the “believer,” as well. The story goes far beyond the tragedy of a teen’s suicide, something that we, in America, have, sadly, almost grown accustomed to. Instead, it “rewinds the tape of life” and lets us take a closer look at some of the behavior and events that surround the teen right before he takes his life. If you are brutally honest, with yourself, you’ll be able to identify with someone that surrounded Rodger Dawson in the story—and see yourself as you are or might have been, with very little prompting.
But the movie doesn’t stop there. Like the movie “The Blind Side,” it touches on so many other themes that we can all identify with: alienation, divorce, parent-child issues, unwanted pregnancies, “cutting,” judging others, being judged by others, hypocrites in the church, phonies outside the church, temptation, wanting acceptance, doubt, anger with God—I mean this film bounces through many of these issues and yet not without a true sensitivity to each of them. If you can’t relate to one of those themes, well—you may need to check your pulse.
And finally, even with a remarkable conversion, or some repentance, or a drastic change of heart—the story continues to lay out the dilemma that we all face—that our actions have consequences—no matter when we take them. “To Save a Life” isn’t syrupy sweet at the beginning, middle, or even at the end of the film. It clearly delineates that making the decision to say “yes,” to God’s grace doesn’t come with a new pair 3-D “Avatar” glasses that makes everything “turn out just right!” This movie leaves you with the feeling that prayer really can change things—even if it’s only in small steps. As Jake prayed for the first time in the film, he said, “I don’t know what to do God, but give me the strength to do what is right.” That is the perfect segue for my final comments. What happens in the last two minutes of the film is worth the price of admission a hundred times over. Of course, I won’t tell you what that is, but what I can tell you with confidence is you’ll leave the theater with the assurance that, with God’s help, you have the power inside you “To Save a Life,” even if it’s just your own.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.