Jake Taylor has it all: friends, fame, a basketball scholarship and the hottest girl in school. What could be better?
Enter Roger Dawson. Roger has nothing. No friends. No hope. Nothing but putdowns and getting pushed aside. Things couldn’t get worse … could they?
Jake and Roger were best friends when they were kids. But the politics of high school quickly pulled them apart. Now Roger doesn’t fit in Jake’s — or anyone’s — circle, and he’s had enough. He walks onto campus with a gun in his pocket and pain in his heart and makes a tragic move.
Jake’s last-ditch effort can’t stop Roger, and the sudden tragedy rocks Jake’s world. Something breaks loose inside and sends him questioning everything. Most of all, he can’t shake the question, Could I have saved Roger? In a quest for answers, Jake finds himself looking for the next Roger and reaching out to the geeks, losers and loners. But he quickly finds that crossing class castes threatens everything he’s built his world on. And it could cost him his own friends, his girl, his dreams and even his reputation. Is it worth the price to find the answer to his ultimate question: What do I want my life to be about?
[The above movie description is quoted from the movie website for the purpose of promoting the movie and setting the stage for the critical commentary below.]
“To Save A Life is a powerful movie about the real-life challenges of teens and their choices.” The movie is “centered around the biblical concept that we’re never more like Jesus than when we’re reaching out to the hurting and lonely.”
“At some point, every teen has to decide: ‘What’s my life going to be about?’ To Save A Life dares to bring that question into their world, encouraging them to answer it with boldness, honesty and Christ-likeness.”
I saw a pre-release screening of To Save A Life last month. The movie tackles some critical teen issues such as social divisions, school violence, cutting, suicide, underage drinking, teen pregnancy, religious hypocrisy and divorce. In order to deal with those issues honestly and effectively, the producers intentionally took a very realistic approach to portraying today’s youth culture. The result is a somewhat edgy glimpse into the real world of today’s teens.
To Save A Life is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, some drug content, disturbing images and sexuality. There are several instances of profanity as well. These elements all made me somewhat uncomfortable, but were necessary in order to establish a realistic setting for the story. None of these “mature thematic elements” were presented in a gratuitous manner, nor were they graphic in nature.
The uneasiness I felt was created not so much by the movie’s presentation of these disturbing elements, as it was by the realization that they really are a part of the world our teens experience every day. Young people are bombarded with life’s toughest realities, and have to wade through a sea of spiritual sewage every single day. With all of these distractions going on around them, they have to figure out how life makes sense. They have to figure out how God fits into all of the ridiculousness they witness every day. They have to figure out what their life is going to be about.
To Save A Life challenges teens (and adults, too, for that matter) to not just go along for the ride; don’t just let circumstances drag you through life; don’t just take the easy road. The movie “shows in practical, authentic ways how every action we take has a ripple-effect on others. Sometimes these actions are unconscious, but too often they are selfish and empty, and their ripples have painful consequences.”
I strongly recommend this movie for teenagers, their parents, youth leaders, school teachers, and anyone else who wants to help young people survive and thrive, both emotionally and spiritually, in a world that so often leads them down a path of self-destruction. Be aware that it is not a “feel-good” movie, but it is a movie that will make you think, will challenge you, and will hopefully change you for the better.
(To Save A Life will be released in theaters in January 2010.)
- “To Save a Life” movie poster and banner used by permission. (Note on movie website states, “Download the OFFICIAL TO SAVE A LIFE movie poster and feel free to share it with your friends.”