To Save a Christian Film

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SaveBlog.jpgThis January, it looks like the film industry has found religion. (Or, if you’re more cynical, you might say it’s found that religion can be a nice selling point.)

The Book of Eli has made about $43 million in its first week of release. Avatar and The Lovely Bones are also overtly spiritual in their own ways. And I’m going to review Legion later today, a horror film that hooks on to Revelation for “inspiration.”

Into this mix hops To Save a Life, the story of a teen grappling with the suicide of his one-time best friend. Of all the films I’ve mentioned, this is the most explicitly Christian of the bunch: Youth pastor Jim Britts wrote it, and the main character gets baptized midway through. But it’s more a story of discipleship than conversion. It’s about what it really looks like and means to be a Christian, day by day.

I had a chance to talk with both Britts and director Brian Baugh (the interview can be found here), and both say they didn’t set out to make a “Christian” film, which I think means two things: One, they want this film to reach out to more than just Christians, and two, they want this film to transcend some of the aesthetic baggage that can go along with a “Christian film.”

Now, there are a whole lotta really eye-rolling secular films out there. But because they’re balanced with the likes of, say, Up and Avatar, nobody thinks the whole category is second-rate. With Christian films, there aren’t enough of them being made to fully balance the scales. So if you end up seeing three or four that make you squirm, you conclude that they’re all like that. Back to Britts and Baugh: If they want you to show their Christian-themed movie to your non-Christian friends, they’ve gotta make sure it passes the eye-roll test. If you find yourself rolling your eyes every 10 minutes over the dialogue or plot or what-have-you, it’s not one you’re likely going to enjoy yourself, much less be something you’ll be proud to show someone else.

To Save a Life passes that test … or at least it did for me. The film, stocked with professional actors and helmed by a Hollywood veteran, feels sleek and solid, and the story really smacked me between the eyes, both as a father of teens and a former teen myself. It’s not quite to the level of Hollywood’s best (no blue CGI creatures, no cameos by Tyler Perry), but it’s competent and well-made, and if this is the future of Christian filmmaking, well, the future looks bright.

Will this movie become Christendom’s next Fireproof, in terms of box-office success? Well, it’s got a shot. To Save a Life is rolling to 441 screens today–substantial exposure for a Christian film, and maybe it’ll be enough to make me want to talk about it again on Monday. We’ll see.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ChloeAugust:

Hey, parablestoday, I think you make an important distinction: the one between Christian films and films made by Christians. That which (I assume) we refer to as “a Christian film” is a film made by Christians, about Christians, for Christians. What I deeply appreciate about “To Save a Life” is how it is a film by (many) Christians and about (many) Christians, but not for Christians alone.

What you say about the Bourne Trilogy is definitely true! It puts me in mind of what Chuck Colson said in How Now Shall We Live?:

“Our choices are shaped by what we believe is real and true, right and wrong, good and beautiful. Our choices are shaped by our worldview.”

I think we could extend that to say that anything we create is thus effected. Therefore, the works of a director will be so effected. And I think Jim Britt’s and Brian Baugh are an exciting example of this!

Cheers!- Chloe

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  parablestoday:

can a film be christian? i mean a person can be christian but can an object be christian?

i was watching the Jason Bourne Trilogy and I saw a lot of Christian themes and I've seen movies where the star professes his Christianity, like Dezel, but I'm not sure what it means to be a Christian film.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  montymeg:

This movie is well worth seeing. The portrayals feel realistic and the issues are good to ponder. Thanks for your reviews as they are worth reading and relevant.