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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

trailer break: ‘To Save a Life’

Take a break from work: watch a trailer…


This is one of those “Christian” movies that managed to do so well when it opened this past weekend — it was the best performing film in limited release — because it worked the untraditional (but increasingly common) marketing method of targeting church groups and getting them to buy out screenings. Not that I’m putting that method down — whatever works to get people to see your movie is a good thing. As long as it does mean that butts were filling those seats and people were indeed seeing the movies, and not that some rich supporters bought more tickets than they actually needed (kinda like how the right-wing books make it onto bestsellers lists via bulk sales).

The marketing method also features the exclusion of film critics from the equation — this wasn’t screened in New York City, and it’s not even playing here.

I put quotes around “Christian” because there doesn’t seem to be anything overtly Christian about this movie — Christians don’t have a monopoly on the golden rule. If they want to claim the “overly earnest” and “unconvincingly melodramatic” labels, though, they’re welcome to them. Also: the “magic negro” label. Alas, all of those labels can be applied to far too many movies. Or at least far too many trailers.

The IMDB notes that the film’s tagline is: “Some people are just dying to be heard.” I figured that had to be a joke, it’s in such poor taste, but nope, it’s right there on the movie’s poster.

To Save a Life is now playing in limited release in the U.S.; no Canadian or U.K. release dates have been announced.



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  • Josh C.

    Some melodramatic cliches aside, it doesn’t actually look that bad, which would be a fresh change of pace from such dreck as Fireproof.

  • Kenny

    Was it just me, or did I miss any and all Christian symbolism in the trailer? I thought it was a story about a guy who just saw something tragic that shocked him utterly, and decided to change to stop it happening again.

    This story could (and should) have been told without reference to religion. It means more if you do something because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because a mystical sky pixie told you to.

  • Dan

    So, did you actually see this movie, or did you only see the trailer? Your writing is so generalized I can’t tell what you’re trying to say.

    I checked fandango.com for listings, and unfortunately it’s not playing in my area, but their “fan reviews” put it as the highest rated movie out there, for what it’s worth.

  • MaryAnn

    So, did you actually see this movie, or did you only see the trailer? Your writing is so generalized I can’t tell what you’re trying to say.

    My reviews are all labeled “reviews.” Also, you can see which current films I’ve seen in my screening log. It’s never a secret whether or not I’ve seen a film.

    I haven’t seen this one. As I noted above, the film was not screened in NYC, and it isn’t playing here. Hence, I could not have seen it.

    their “fan reviews” put it as the highest rated movie out there, for what it’s worth.

    An unimpeachable source, to be sure. :->

  • MaryAnn

    This story could (and should) have been told without reference to religion.

    It may well be. But it’s certainly being marketed to the Christian audience as a “faith-based” movie.

    It means more if you do something because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because a mystical sky pixie told you to.

    I agree. I don’t know that many Christians would.

  • Alli

    Let me guess, the kid gives up his Big East basketball scholarship and a future in the NBA to become a youth pastor?

    Ugh. So the only black kid in the entire movie is the one with a gun? Am I the only one who finds it disturbing that the rich white boy is the only one who can save everyone?

    In regards to the “how far will you go” quotes, I don’t see how standing up to your crappy in-crowd friends is really taking a risk. So you lose some of your drinking buddies. That’s going to happen when you leave high school anyway. The trailer just seems like melodramatic crap about what you should be doing in the first place: respecting other people.

  • The movie did open on 1/22 at the AMC Empire 25 (Times Square) and Regal Clifton Commons 16 (Clifton, NJ)and screening copies were made available to any NY media requesting from Samuel Goldwyn.
    The movie will also open 1/29 at the Commack Multiplex.

  • Kevin

    There are 11 critics who reviewed this on Rotten Tomatoes and 3 of them are from New York, so how do you come to the conclusion that it didn’t open here and that no critic saw this? Next time do a little research before misleading your readers.

  • Bluejay

    The movie did open on 1/22 at the AMC Empire 25 (Times Square)

    As of Friday afternoon, the movie listings on AMC Empire 25’s website – http://www.amcentertainment.com/Empire/ – do not (or no longer) include this film.

    That was a pretty short run.

  • LaSargenta

    Kyle, you wrote:

    Regal Clifton Commons 16 (Clifton, NJ)

    and implied that this was NYC.

    Yes, the AMC Empire 25 is in Times Square, but it is definately NOT there now.

    And, what you called the Regal Clifton Commons must be the AMC Clifton Commons 16 in Clifton NJ as that is the only theater showing this movie when I type “to save a life movie nyc” into Google.

    Clifton? That’s Passaic County I think! That is not NYC. With the way traffic is around here, too, it would take about 1.5 hours each way if there weren’t any overturned tractor trailers on the Garden State Parkway ’cause that puts extra pressure on any road nearby. Well, unless you left via the Lincoln tunnel before 7 am so that lots of the NYC street regs hadn’t kicked in yet for the day. Then it wouldn’t take too long.

    Also, I’m not a reviewer, but it is normal to have to request a viewing copy? How is one supposed to know about the movie in order to request it? Do critics get special marketing to let them know about movies and that they need to request the reviewer copy? In my business, when someone wants me to look at something, they send it to me with a cover letter.

  • Dan

    @ Alli – OK, saw this, and the kid who shoots himself is not, by a significant margin, the only black kid in the film…. and the kid who has the gun is painted as a very sympathetic character. This kid is also next door neighbors with the lead, so they are both affluent. The “bad” guys are all white.

    In terms of “how far will you go” line… for a high school kid, that is extremely relative – think of all the things you thought were a big deal when you were 18 vs. now (I’m 39)…. Spoiler alert…. he gives up his high school friendships, his basketball scholarship and for a time, his long time girl friend, solely to reach out to kids who are hurting…. black, latino, asian, white, whoever.

  • kim

    Wow! some of the things said here shock me. everyone dies someday and one day it will be your turn and then you will have your judgement day before God. I hope you are prepared.
    take a look around you sometime…all the beauty in the world. make several billion years ago by some big bang?
    How about there is an intelligent creator?
    Both are theories, yes, but I kinda like the one that when i die, i get to go live eternal life with the one who loves me (us), sent his son to die for me (us) and created me (us)
    God bless

  • CB

    take a look around you sometime…all the beauty in the world. make several billion years ago by some big bang?
    How about there is an intelligent creator?

    Why not both?

    Both are theories

    No, one is a theory, the other is an act of faith. Even if you have faith, you shouldn’t get them confused.

  • kim

    your right. beleiving is a faith, however, some people argue that they are both theories so i was speaking on that logic.

  • Melissa

    That movie has impacted SO many people. No need to judge it in that way. Statistically, EVERY 18 seconds, someone around the world kills themselves. These problems are so REAL, and so there is no need to call anything here melodramatic. I do admit, the movie seemed melodramatic because well it all happened in one movie, but trust me, this is one of the most real movies I’ve ever seen. It’s changed so many lives, including mine. God Bless You:)

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