Until about two-thirds of the way in, Save Me plays its central hypothesis—the possibility that a Christian retreat designed to “cure” young men of their homosexuality might not be without benefit—surprisingly, um, straight. For one thing, the retreat, an idyllic country house lit in impossibly golden tones and portentously named Genesis House, doubles as a detox center for several of its drug-addicted clientele and performs an undeniable service in curing these men of their narcotic addictions. For another, director Robert Cary presents the retreat’s owners, an aging couple (Judith Light and Stephen Lang) as surprisingly sincere in their concern for their charges—at least until the revelation of the woman’s backstory (her gay, drug-addict son committed suicide when she rejected his lifestyle) calls into the question the purity of her motives and reduces this central character to a schematically conceived construct designed to facilitate a too-neat narrative resolution.
The film’s major problem, however, is its difficulty in extricating the very real problem of drug addiction from the “problem” of homosexuality; indeed, the connections between the two are made clear from the opening sequence in which the film’s main character, Mark (Chad Allen), is introduced partaking of a coke-fueled hookup with a random stranger. Certainly the twin “afflictions” are closely linked for the film’s agents of repression, but it’s not so clear that Cary and screenwriters Robert Desiderio, Craig Chester and Alan Hines understand exactly where the two part company. Which begs two very important questions: To what degree do the filmmakers view clearly irresponsible behavior to be intrinsic to the gay lifestyle and if their concern is in wrestling with the consequences of sexual repression inherent in contemporary Christianity, why do they complicate their film with an auxiliary issue whose implications they aren’t prepared to explore in any kind of depth?
In the end, the film devolves into the expected rebellion-against-repressive-authority narrative that much of the rest of the picture seemed designed to avoid. Mark is granted both victory over his addiction and the ability to accept his homosexuality, but since the rest of the narrative spent so much time winding these two concerns into an impossible tangle, this final resolution feels not so much like a deft act of thematic disjuncture but a very blunt slice through the Gordian knot.