Thursday, May 24 , 2018, 12:37 am | Overcast 59º


Cinema in Focus: ‘To Save a Life’

Despite its weaknesses, this uplifting film conveys a worthy message

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

The authenticity of the youth ministry portrayed in the film To Save a Life reveals an author with personal experience. But author Jim Britts is not only a youth pastor, he is also a trained filmmaker. So when his church in Oceanside realized that the best way to influence a culture is through film, Britts and Senior Pastor Steve Foster combined their experience to create this uplifting story.

This strength, however, is also the film’s weakness. An example is that the youth pastor in the film, Chris Vaughn (Joshua Weigel), is winsome and articulate as he provides a nuanced ministry to students, while the senior pastor, Mark Rivers (D. David Morin), is one-dimensional and lacks the usual wisdom and compassion his position requires.

Additionally, the film presents a stereotypical view of the difficulties of life. Although life is often hard and every person has his or her share of pain, the film weaves pain into everything. It doesn’t ring true.

The common grace of God at work in all people, including those outside the church, seems to be missing. Though life is completed by relationship with Jesus Christ, the Christian belief of common grace or prevenient grace expresses the truth that God is present throughout human experience and extends his love to all people.

The teenager in Britts’ tale is Jake Taylor (Randy Wayne). A goodhearted athlete whose best friend, Roger Dawson (Robert Bailey Jr.), commits suicide their senior year, Jake has to admit his abandonment of his childhood friend. As is often the case when a friend or family member takes his or her own life, Jake struggles with guilt and fear. But when Pastor Vaughn reaches out to him, this tragedy becomes an impetus for change.

The angst of high school in all of its insecurities, drinking games and teen pregnancies provides the opportunity for an ensemble cast to create a believable story. The beautiful but insecure cheerleader is Amy Briggs (Deja Kreutzberg). The jock pushing the alcohol is Doug Moore (Steven Crowder). The isolated gamer is Johnny Garcia (Sean Michael), the troubled preacher’s kid is Danny Rivers (Bubba Lewis) and the evangelistic teenager is Andrea Stevens (Kim Hidalgo), to mention only a few.

Seldom do we see a film that understands Christian ministry as well as To Save a Life. The message that Christians are not to be religious, but rather to bring God’s unconditional love into daily life is a worthy message, and we recommend the film.


» The decision of Jake to be there for Amy demonstrates his ability to put her needs before his own dreams. In what way do you believe this is an expression of Jake’s faith?

» It is the nature of high school that people divide into cliques. Why do you think this is such a human trait?

» Why do you think the pastor’s son reveled in harming other people’s lives when his father was committed to caring for people?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >