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31 August 2008

Movie Review: Save Me Gives a Sensitive Look at a Timely Issue

For those that haven't heard the battle for gay rights is heating up in sunny California over gay marriage. There are those who can't live and let live and many of these are from the religious right.

Robert Desiderio has written a screenplay from a story by Craig Chester and Alan Hines. Under the direction of Robert Cary is has become a 2007 movie, elevated only slightly over a movie of the week, if TV allowed for less sap and more evenhanded portrayals.

The story is about a gay man, Mark (Chad Allen), who is troubled in many ways. He is addicted to drugs and perhaps to sex. His family won't take him in after his latest suicide attempt, but he finds refuge in a Christian-run ministry run by a husband (Stephen Lang) and wife (Judith Light with a mousy brown dyed hair), Ted and Gayle.

This ministry, Genesis House, is about changing broken men and helping them recover from being gay through a 12-step program of faith.

Mark attract special attention from Gayle whose son by her first marriage committed suicide, but he also develops that friendship with another resident, Scott (Robert Gant). Predictably, this friendship deepens into a romantic love, very different from the casual encounters we know Mark had originally indulged in.

The question of if Gayle is wrong or if the gay men are misguided is not tilted either way and Gayle is neither a rigid zealot nor enlightened at the end.

Produced by the gay-focused production company Mythgarden, there is no doubt of a bias toward gay rights, however, this movie gives a sympathetic portrayal to both sides. Religious faith isn't seen as necessarily a bad thing and some of the damning biblical quotations against homosexuality are aired as well as ones that we'd rather ignore. If faith has guided Mark to give up drugs and lust for love, then how could religion be all bad, too?

Of course, here in Pasadena, CA, there is a church that has taken up gay rights and does have a liberal ministry with a long history of defending many socio-political issues. This kind of movie fits well with this church's more open-minded stance and reminds us that religion can have a place in the movement to defend the rights of minorities.

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