When I walked out of the theatre after seeing To Save a Life, I was pretty positive about this teen flick. This outreach project of California's New Song Community Church has the best production values I've seen from a church-made feature film, tells a good story, and captures both youth group culture and high school life pretty authentically. The movie is poignant, often funny and filled with memorable scenes. But in the weeks since I first saw it, I've been bothered by some weaknesses and unintended messages that have dampened my praise and recommendation.
Loosely based on the hit song "How To Save a Life" by The Fray, the movie opens after the public suicide of an outcast teen named Roger (Robert Bailey, Jr.). Stud basketball player Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne) was Roger's best friend until Jake's popularity accelerated and he began to see misfit Roger as a social speedbump. Broken, guilt-ridden, disillusioned, and confused, Jake begins to ask hard questions. This questioning and unhappiness leads Jake toward life change as he is pursued by a caring youth pastor, Chris (Joshua Weigel), evaluates his relationship with girlfriend Amy (Deja Kreutzberg), and makes a conscious effort to care for others more than self—to love on the unloved.
It's easy to tell To Save a Life was written by a longtime youth pastor—in this case, New Song's Jim Britts. Two reasons: 1) The film shows knowledge and understanding of teens, their world, pressures, and culture. 2) With noble aims, it tries to address and help almost every conceivable teen issue: suicide, bullying, cutting, drinking, drugs, parental pressure, premarital sex, fear of failure, dating, parents' divorce, hypocrisy, teen pregnancy, bad-influence friends, loneliness, ...1