As disagreements continue to heat up between red states and blue states, and liberals and evangelicals during this election season, Save Me makes its debut as a story that may be in search of unlikely middle ground. Filmmaker Robert Cary, who last delved with great wit and warmth into the agony and ecstasy of Jewish relationship debacles in an urban setting with Ira And Abby, goes to nearly opposite extremes with Save Me. Here he veers into highly hot topic territory in a dramatic confrontation between homosexuality and Christian orthodoxy in rural New Mexico.
Chad Allen (St. Elsewhere) is Mark, a young party hard, promiscuous gay coke addict who attempts suicide in a dingy hotel after his latest one night stand bolts and dumps him at dawn. Mark’s distraught family pressures him to check into the males only Genesis House, a born again rehab retreat specializing in a strict regimen of full time faith as the cure for gay ‘sexual brokenness.’
Mark’s initial rebellious resistance to his surroundings slowly smooths over into acceptance and personal reflection under the mixed bag of stern and yet caring support from head matriarch Gayle (Judith Light). Consumed by a ‘warriors for Jesus’ style of Christian doctrine and adhering to the literally straight and narrow road as the only acceptable lifestyle, Gayle bans everything from smoking and cursing, to crossing your legs too daintily and same sex glancing. She also recruits available young women periodically to attend a dance party on the grounds, in order to hopefully keep any potential unapproved sexual urges of the Genesis House occupants in check.
But it turns out that Gayle has some fairly unresolved obsessions of her own, related to the death of her son years ago. And her unhealthy, overly prying attachment to Mark eventually shakes up the deceptive calm of the residence in major ways.
Save Me remarkably manages to find a delicate balance between powerfully opposing points of view around religious devotion and sexual preference. And though the film’s sentiments are clearly pro-gay, they’re not quite crafted as evangelical caricature or an assault against Christian values.
At the same time, each character is fleshed out with uncommon sensitivity, in a story where there are ultimately no true villains. The point of Save Me is that fear, not loathing is the greatest enemy to mutual understanding and acceptance of both difference, and the differently desired. Not a bad notion to convey in these morally divisive times.
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