“To Save A Life” is an independent movie that sends out a strong message about how suicide is not the answer in any case. That is a message that should be communicated to all people in some way, shape or form. However, this is a difficult film to review because it really comes down to where you stand in your beliefs. What one person thinks is being overly preachy and religious may not bother another person. And on top of that, this is a film specifically geared towards Christians and/or young teenagers. These many factors contribute to why this is not something that everyone can or will enjoy.
What is established in the beginning is that Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne) and Roger Dawson (Robert Bailey Jr.) were best friends for a very long period of time during their childhood. There was one instance in which Roger saved Jake’s life by knocking him out of the way of oncoming traffic and putting himself at the risk. This accident alters Roger’s life, causing him to acquire a bad limp for the rest of his teenage life. That is how close these two are in their younger years.
But all of this will change as high school comes around. Jake is now a star basketball player for the school. As a star, he is starting to get attention from the in-crowd, specifically from a popular cheerleader named Amy (Deja Kreutzberg), whom he soon develops a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with. One night, Jake blows off his previously set plans with Roger to go to a party with Amy and others. Roger, upset by this change of mind and priorities, cuts off his friendship with Jake. At first this doesn’t mean much to Jake, but he is unaware of the dark downward spiral that this incident will cause.
Roger is now virtually friendless (few friends even on MySpace) and even worse is now constantly made fun of for his handicap. He wants attention, but it is not within his grasp. One day during senior year, Roger shoots a gun openly in the air of a crowded hallway and takes his own life. Jake, now with the guilt that he was partially responsible for this, seeks out help in the form of guidance from a youth church pastor Chris (Joshua Weigel) who encourages Jake to join his church community. He eventually does, and this sudden involvement and change of heart gives him a bad reputation among the in-crowd and Amy. But as his reputation decreases, the larger his friendship grows with Chris. His teachings inspire Jake to gather a large group of the churchgoers and give aid to those who are viewed as outcasts in the eyes of other high schoolers.
Now you can probably tell from the previous paragraph whether you will like this movie or you won’t. Coming from a Christian’s perspective, I do think it is all right. Are there flaws? Yes, many of course. One that especially got to me was the portrayal of people who were not followers of Christ. A large amount of them are a bit too nastily written. I mean, I know they are in high school and I know that they live by their own rules, but the writers could have definitely toned them down a few notches. Because where they’re at right now are animals that feed on the misery of outcasts and the thrill of debauchery. It is kind of hard to sell the idea of “not judging others” when we’re already judging most of the secondary characters in the movie.
And of course there is the fact that the whole religious side story could come off as preachy. But then again, I cannot use that as an excuse against the movie. It was obviously the filmmakers’ intention to appeal to a Christian audience. On the contrary, I think that the aspect that the movie really captures is how the group of churchgoers is willing to aid those who have struggled and are currently struggling. This particular area of the movie I think is inspiring to teenagers of this attitude in real life, giving them hope in a situation where hope is hard to come by.
Like I said before, there is a target audience for this movie: Christians, teenagers, etc. I think it is fine that the filmmakers had this in mind while making this, but this may be the movie’s downfall. It has an encouraging, inspiring, and positive message, but that message will probably only be received by that small demographic who is willing to go out and see it. If the movie had branched out it’s intentions more effectively but still maintained it’s independent-style feel, I think more people would be likely to see it and it would be less susceptible to bad criticism.