You, too, can prevent teenage suicides, if you reach out as a good Christian … or something like that. To Save a Life
is a well-meaning but ineptly made message movie that, with this broad release, hopes to replicate the box-office success of recent Christian niche films such as Fireproof
and Facing the Giants
. But the screenplay by Jim Britts, a first-time scriptwriter, and the direction by Baugh, a cinematographer-turned-director, are clumsy and ham-handed, though the performances by a mostly teenaged cast are better than might be expected, considering the circumstances. The film actually treads lightly through its Christian-outreach aspects in favor of setting an example for teens for behaving with respect and decency toward their peers. Of course, the light and love of Jesus Christ is shown to be the path to righteous behavior, yet the film doesn’t resort to the Good Book and its liturgy to make its points. Jake Taylor (Wayne) is a high school senior who has a basketball scholarship to the school of his choice waiting for him and the hottest girl in school (Kreutzberg) as his girlfriend. Then a childhood friend (Bailey Jr.) whom he has shunned as a teenager shoots himself in the school corridor, an act that starts Jake down a path of regret. When Jake soon chokes in the big shot in a game of beer pong, he turns to the youth ministry run by Chris (Weigel). Over the course of two hours and a plethora of background music, Jake suffers all the ills common to modern American teens: parental divorce, unplanned pregnancy, peer pressure, suicidal friends, and more. The filmmaking goes back and forth between choppy and sluggish, with mismatched shots and sound discontinuity prevalent. While the jury is still out on whether the power of Jesus Christ can prevent suicide, there is no getting around the fact that teen suicide is a serious problem. Let’s hope the film fulfills its purpose of saving lives in the literal if not figurative sense.