Save Me Film Review - A Bittersweet Love Story of How God Brought Two Men Together

It is a bit of serendipity that has me writing this article. “The Universe” really wanted me to review this one. So here I go.

 

            

 

Save Me is the story of Mark (Chad Allen), the local addict in a small town in New Mexico, who has overdosed once again in his favorite hotel where he takes men to do drugs and fool around. This latest episode is the last straw for his brother and mother. Upon release from the hospital, Mark is left in the charge of Gayle and Ted (Judith Light & Stephen Lang), the husband-wife team who run Genesis House, a farm and boarding house that specializes in “curing” men of the “brokenness of homosexuality” through Christian ministry. 

 

Among the others already residing at Genesis House is Lester (Robert Baker), a lost, lonely virgin who is plagued with impure thoughts of being with another man, and Scott (Robert Gant), an older resident determined to rid himself of his “affliction” so his ailing father will one day be proud of him.

 

Chad Allen as Mark in "Save Me"

Inside of a month, Mark has his drug and sex addiction under conrol. Both Scott and Gayle have each developed a significant bond with Mark as he acclimates to life at the Genesis House. However, it is the affection that the two have for Mark that resurrects old demons for each of them, which leads to their eventual clash of wills and personal principles.

 

I liked lots of things about this film. Judith Light was brilliant. She has presence that commands the screen, imbuing Gayle with the beautiful balance of stern, outward righteousness and simmering internal desperation.  Rabid Queer as Folk fan that I am, I was delighted to see Robert Gant on screen. As Scott, he plays a lovely arc of sensitivity and strength (for as long as the script allows). Stephen Lang does equally compelling work as patient, understanding Ted, a former addict, partner in the Genesis House ministry and hopelessly in love with a woman who is limited in returning his physical affections.

Robert Gant as Scott in "Save Me"

 

The confessionals were a great device. Several times in the film, the men of the house speak openly about how they are feeling and where they are in the process of their conversion, presumably in a private therapy session, although the audience never sees to whom they are speaking. I like these confessionals because it allows the movie to point to itself to a certain degree. It allows the opportunity for the voice of descent towards the idea of these conversion camps. Do they work? Should they work? And what is most profound is the level of self-delusion people will sometimes achieve all to win the prize of acceptance. Every character was given a monologue moment, which made for some of my favorite performances of this film.

 

Group Therapy

 

Now for the problems. Perhaps the biggest problem for me is how the story jumps ahead a month, to a point where Mark is walking the enlightened path with relative ease. What seems like a fairly run-of-the-mill junkie meltdown, cross dissolves into a reformed, willingly sharing, completely adjusted young man. The juice of the story is the transformation from sinner to saved. The intrigue of the relationships that he has with Gayle and Scott is in watching him navigate obstacles to achieve these friendships that ultimately develop into maternal and romantic love respectively. What makes Scott and Gayle so different that they are able to bond with Mark when clearly there were other people in Mark’s life who have been willing to help him in the past? I feel cheated that we skipped the messy stuff; after all, suffering is the essence drama.

 

Male Bonding

 

The film does err on the side of many of the same old clichés. The film opens with hyped up Gay boys driving recklessly down a street. There is random sex, loud dance music and drug use cross cut with the “Good Gays” singing hymns in church. I didn’t understand the purpose of the “bird house tantrum.” For me, “The Dance” is perhaps the most frustrating. We see each beat coming from a mile away. The men are dancing with women, but can’t take their eyes off of each other. There’s nothing subtle about this scene. It is one of many miss opportunities and especially disappointing because this is essentially the climax of the film. The story simply loses its way at the half way point, or rather falls onto the same beaten path that we have seen many times before, which is unfortunate.

 

Judith Light as Gayle in "Save Me"

 

This script does achieve complexity in the back stories of Gayle and Scott, but not so much for Mark. Neither Mark as a central character, nor his abbreviated journey to sobriety and newfound love, is as interesting at the other storylines. Come the second act, film is not actually about him; but rather Mark serves as the catalyst that pushes the lives of the other two characters forward.

 

There are very few surprises in this film. While I suspect the film’s leisurely pace was intentional, the film could use a bit of tightening. Save Me does not strive to be a very sophisticated film, it’s performances are designed to engage your heart. And it certainly succeeds in that aspect, conveying its simple message: Love is unconditional. Love is a gift from God, so embrace it. The film is a sweet story with some good performances. Unfortunately, in terms of raising the bar for Gay Cinema, it just misses the mark.

 

Save Me will have a limited release in New York City, NY on September 5, 2008 and in Los Angeles, CA on September 12, 2008.

http://www.savememovie.com/

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