Run by the devoutly Christian Gayle (Judith Light) and her patient husband Ted (Steven Lang), the program puts young men on a well-ordered regimen of prayer, group therapy, awkward Saturday dances with local girls, and birdhouse construction in order to turn them around. It's not a prison or a deprogramming center, and Gayle couldn't be nicer, so after a few temper tantrums, Mark starts to settle in and enjoy the camaraderie of the other troubled young men who live in the house.
Among them is Scott (Robert Gant), who, pushing 40, seems a bit old to be working on his problem as middle age approaches, but he's actually a star student, and Mark gravitates toward him. Unfortunately for Gayle and her success rate, that gravitation becomes mutual and threatens to disrupt her carefully-controlled environment. When the other guys see Scott and Mark sharing a cigarette, the sexual tension of the moment derails some of them. It seems that their path to heterosexuality may be hindered by true feelings that all the prayer in the world won't be able to suppress.
Light (best known from years of Who's the Boss?) tears into her role with gusto. Gayle can turn from den mother to shrew in an instant. Her mission, we learn, is driven by the suicide of her own gay son. Rather than accept homosexuality, her goal is to beat it into submission with a Bible. That strategy leads to the inevitable debate about how the Old Testament should be interpreted 2,000 years after it was written, but Gayle won't engage. All she has is her faith; the last thing she will do is question it, and that intransigence could ultimately lead to her entire operation tumbling down.
A tip of the hat to Light, Allen, and Gant, all of whom acted as producers on Save Me in order to get it made. Light has long been a fairy godmother (so to speak) to the gay community, always working for the cause. And it's nice to see two gay actors like Allen and Gant creating their own powerful gay roles if no one will do it for them. This is no ordinary vanity project. (In fact, Light has never looked dumpier.) In the hands of, say, Lifetime Television, there would have been a lot more tears and histrionics. Instead, Save Me is tough, tight, and thought-provoking, a small-scale indie success for everyone involved.
Up next: How to speak in tongues.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 15th October 2009
Distributed by: First Run Features
Production compaines: Spark Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 66%
Fresh: 21 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Robert Cary
Screenwriter: Robert Desiderio