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To Save a Life Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 1.0

    out of 100

    Overwhelming dislike
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 10

    out of 100

    The New York Times

    The film would be a mere nuisance if not for its shameless exploitation of school shootings to advance its agenda.

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  • 20

    out of 100

    Village Voice Melissa Anderson

    To Save a Life wants to rescue kids from the Satanic messages of "Gossip Girl"--a benign, even worthy enough objective, but must alternatives to empty, materialistic adolescence require baptism in the Pacific?

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  • 30

    out of 100


    Just as representations of human sexuality on film are often unpleasantly twisted by the grotesqueries of the porn industry, so, too, are filmic representations of religious conversion homogenized by the faith-based entertainment industry. Case in point: Debutante director Brian Baugh's To Save a Life.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times

    Manages to be appealing, poignant and inspiring in ways that are gentle and quite real. This smartly calibrated film also pulls off something rare by presenting religious commitment as something that's not only potentially healing and elevating, but also kind of cool.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Message-heavy teen drama with iffy behavior, dark themes.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this Christian-themed drama has tons of heart, it gets a little heavy-handed. Teens engage in all sorts of stereotypically “troubled” behavior -- including drinking, drug use, premarital sex, bullying, and cutting. But the movie's ultimate message -- that this behavior is negative and has consequences -- comes through loud and clear. While it's not particularly graphic, there's one disturbing scene in which an important character brings a firearm to school and then uses it on himself. Production company New Song Pictures is a division of New Song Community Church in Vista, Calif.

  • Families can talk about what drives Jake to change. Why did he dump his friendship with Roger in the first place? What was the payoff? And why does Roger’s death trigger his soul-searching?
  • Is this a message movie? If so, how does it deliver that message?
  • Parents, talk with your teens about the real-life consequences of behavior like underage drinking and sex. What do the characters in the movie learn about these topics? Are they realistic lessons?

The good stuff
  • message true3

    Messages: Despite some pretty iffy behavior by some of the characters, the movie ultimately makes the point that no one's perfect, and everyone experiences moments to be proud of and not so proud of. Teens will also take away the message that striving to be a better person and encouraging others to do the same are noble goals that should be supported by others.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: Although main character Jake isn't perfect -- he parties too much, passively witnesses others get bullied (a popular jock invites a kid to a party for the sole purpose of makingfun of him and later ridicules a student because he’sexploring his faith, etc.), shuns a lifelong friend, and doesn’t seem to have focus -- he's clearly searching for answers and meaning. A Christian youth group leader helps guide his way, and, at some point, Jake decides his pastimes are no longer much fun. But the metamorphosis doesn’t easily stick, and Jake sometimes lashes out at others.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: A student smuggles a gun into school, fires warning shots, and then kills himself with it. Two characters punch each other. One character deals with the pressures of growing up by cutting himself.

  • sex false3

    Sex: A teen couple is seen pawing each other in the dark. Sex is hinted at: A guy is shown pulling up his pants while a girl zips up her dress. A teen gets pregnant and agonizes over what to do about it.

  • language false1

    Language: "Damn" is about it.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false4

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Kids pass around a joint outside school. A house full of underage teens drink -- downing shots and guzzling what appear to be alcoholic beverages out of red plastic cups. At one party, two guys play beer pong, drinking in excess. A man drinks alone after his wife leaves him because he’s unfaithful. A kid attempts to kill himself with pills.