On suicide and saving lives …

I had the chance to pre-screen a new movie coming out next week, called To Save a Life.
There used to be a category called “Christian movies.” All were sincere, and a few were quite good, but many were characterized by three things:
1. The weak and predictable storyline of the movie was an excuse to have a nice “clean and together” Christian present an often-formulaic version of the Christian message.
2. The Christian characters were usually way too good to be believable, and the nonChristians were believably human, until they got “saved,” after which they became somewhat unbelievable.
3. Apart from the evangelistic presentation, there wasn’t much of value to the movie. In other words, apart from the religious message, there wasn’t much of a message.
As a result, Christians liked these movies, but they wouldn’t work so well for folks outside the church.
If To Save a Life is considered a Christian movie, it marks the beginning (I hope) of a new stage of development in that genre.
1. The story of the movie has integrity. It has twists and turns that mirror, not a formulaic “testimony,” but the unpredictabilities of life. Several times I thought, “OK, here goes” – expecting a trite resolution to a conflict, and each time I was surprised.
2. The Christian and nonChristian characters of the story are interesting and believable. There are outspoken and committed Christians in the film, but none of them are “clean and together.” True, it’s an Orange County version of life that’s a far cry from where most of live, but through TV and film, Orange County is a pretty common setting for films.
3. The movie has a message that stands or falls apart from any evangelistic impact the film will have – a message about suicide and the common cruelties of high school life that can drive a kid to suicide.
The acting was solid (with a peripheral exception or two) and the production very good. People who were satisfied with the old genre of “Christian movies” will find the film way too gritty and realistic. They’ll lament the presence of a lot of teen partying, some teen sex, and a bad word or two, and they’ll grieve the absence of a formulaic gospel “invitation.” But I think that youth group leaders will have in “To Save a Life” something they will don’t get often enough: the kind of movie they can encourage their kids to see – and bring along a friend who has no connection to the church. Good and worthwhile conversations will follow.
And I hope that more films like this one will follow as well. You can learn more at www.facebook.com/tosavealife.