I had the privilege of previewing this movie back in December largely due to the fact that the LINC (organization of youth ministers in local counties) and Student Discipleship Ministries located in Burleson, TX are part of promoting this movie in our area. My husband, Sam, is extremely involved, too, having written materials to use in conjunction with the movie and in support of students taking the initiative “to save a life” in their school.
The real test of a good movie for me is what I think about it the next day – if I think about it at all. To Save A Life is the kind of movie that gets under your skin and challenges your comfort zone. As a teacher, it has affected the way I view every student who steps through my classroom door. I am a teacher who stays connected with my kids – via social networking, texts, emails, whatever. (Judge that how you may, but I am not just a 8:00-4:00 teacher thanks to the students who have given me access into their lives away from school.) I tend to know when things are going on with my kids – when they’re hurting, when they need extra encouragement… and, yet, even I get busy and miss the important opportunities I might have had to really change a student’s day – or their life.
But this movie is not about me, a 29-yr-old teacher, minister, and young adult author. No, it is about the teenagers themselves – deciding to make a change.
To Save A Life is a realistic depiction of the chain of events that go down in a school and in the lives of one particular student and a youth pastor after a lonely, bullied student commits suicide AT SCHOOL one day. Sound heavy to you? Well, it is… but the movie is so tastefully done in that respect. While the suicide of Roger is the catalyst for what changes Jake, our hottie high school basketball star, it is not the main event. What soon takes shape in the story is how Jake starts to notice that the social set up of high school is just not what it should be… and things need to change. As Jake questions the real purpose of life and starts noticing the inherent value that people have – even those perceived by the world to be “uncool” or unworthy of attention – he starts to not only change himself, but others around him. And he starts with an intentional attempt to get to know just ONE other lonely person – one other life on the verge of following in Roger’s tragic footsteps.
Not to sound harsh, but the truth is that there are few (if any) truly well-done Christian-produced movies out there. This one absolutely has good acting, good writing, and is THE BEST I’ve seen in this genre. (And sadly, even though I am an unashamed Christian, I don’t usually watch many “Christian” movies because of their lack of realism.) This is real. I felt like I knew these students, these school hallways. I felt that Christianity was pretty accurately depicted, as well as the language and circumstances of the real world. (Thus the reason for the PG-13 rating.) I liked that while Jake’s life did not become perfect by the end, he found joy in making the right decisions – and found real-life blessing and healing because of it. (See the movie trailer at the top of my blog as soon as you finish reading this post.)
Did I laugh in this movie? Yes, there are funny parts! Did I cry? Absolutely. Was it all feel-good and smiley all the time? Not even close. But did it leave me with a lot to think about and act on? Yes.
As a teacher and an adult who cares about you, yes, there are things I should be doing to love and reach your generation. But there is only so much I can do – because of my age. I can engage a discouraged student after class and really ask how things are going. But I cannot go sit with them in the cafeteria when they are by themselves and give them a self-esteem boost. I can correct a kid for pushing around another student in the hallway, but I am not the one who is able to become their friend and look out for them on the bus or in the neighborhood away from school. I can find out about cyberbullying and report it. But I can’t change the way that bullied student feels when picked on the next day because an adult stepped in. I can confront a student cutting or doing other self-destructive behaviors, but I cannot give them the acceptance that they might be looking for… especially when they won’t open up simply because I AM AN ADULT.
YOU, teenagers, have to look out for each other. YOU, teenagers, have so much influence right NOW at this stage in your life to help each other, to change each other for the better. History and experience have proven that when great things happen to a nation, to a people, to a cause, it is because the YOUNG PEOPLE get behind it. Why does this phenomenon happen? Why are teenagers able to change the world? Because everything in a teenager’s life is passionate and dramatic and life-changing. It is time to take those wonderful qualities of adolescence – the drama, the passion, the motivation – and channel it into the right areas for the right causes. Because, while a self-absorbed, end-of-the-world-dramatic-approach-to-everything is a teenager’s curse, it is also a teen’s STRENGTH. Use that to become passionate about something more than YOURSELF. Start opening your eyes and noticing where you’re missing IT. Learn to love others in deeper ways. CHANGE YOUR WORLD.
I love what the movie trailer says… “How far would you go… To Save A Life?”
Well… you could start by at least going to see the movie… and deciding for yourself.