I've been asked to write DVD group study notes on this cool film... for the UK Bible Society's REEL ISSUES - it's going to be interesting to see what feedback I get...
Dir Brian Dannelly
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
You may or may not have heard about the controversial teen comedy film ‘Saved! - which features the most prominent ‘Christian subject matter’ film since The Passion of the Christ.
The plot is as follows; all round ‘good girl’ Mary (Jena Malone) and her domineering best friend, Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), are in their senior year at the American Eagle Christian High School, activities include prayer groups, worship and a strict adherence to biblical values. All is well until Mary’s boyfriend tells her he thinks he might actually be gay, this coincides with Mary having a ‘vision’ of Jesus urging her to "do everything she can to help him." After a naïve desperate liaison with her boyfriend, to her horror and shame, she ends up pregnant. Suddenly, Mary begins to question everything she’s believed in, and Hilary Faye and her devoted “disciples” turn against her. After all, how can there be a place for a young unmarried mother named Mary in a Christian environment?
Writer/director Brian Dannelly says Saved! came about as a result of his own diverse background. “As a kid I went to Catholic elementary school, Christian high school, and a Jewish summer camp,” he says. “The biggest lesson I learned from my experiences became a line in the script: ‘They can’t all be wrong and they can’t all be right.’ I wanted to write a movie based on that.”
Which is all very well but the film has caused outrage in the U.S. where Christian commentators such as Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film & Television Commission, called the movie "a sad, bigoted, anti-Christian movie that mocks the Christian faith."
Producer of the film, Michael Stipe - the singer/songwriter of the band R.E.M., is however adamant about the film’s positive stance on religion. “I don’t think this film in any way mocks Christianity,” he says. “I come from a very religious family, and I would not insult them or the people I grew up with by working so hard on something I thought was insulting. This film presents things the way they really are. He also said: “My personal belief is that Christianity and spirituality in general need a little bit of a push into the 21st century, particularly from the point of view of a teenager.”
In discussing the potential controversy raised by Saved!’s subject matter, the cast have also been quick to point out that the main message of the film is one of love, one of inclusion and acceptance of all religions and beliefs. Mandy Moore said: “I think it’s inspirational to see my character, a Christian who tests her faith and finally decides to come back to it because it’s what she believes in.” This is echoed by Jena Malone who said: “In every young person’s life, there is a point when you have to question your foundation before you start building the walls for your own house.”
I can see why the film will anger many Christians but on reflection I believe that it does not really criticise Christians, religion, or faith. And unfortunately it may be those who condemn Saved! the loudest that might be those who most benefit from the messages knocking the intolerance and inability to even consider how Christianity can appear to the outside world.
Darkmatt Rating: öööö (essential viewing for all believers - and non believers actually)
Click here to read: Matt Adcock's Other Film Reviews