The drama takes place mostly at Genesis House, an adobe retreat nestled in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo range, which facilitates a program designed to convert gay men to heterosexuality and Christianity. Into this Eden slithers the troubled Mark (Chad Allen), an agitated coke addict and attempted suicide who can't stand the place but is drawn to the tranquil Scott (Robert Gant), a resident clean for five months.
The couple ministering Genesis are Gayle and Ted (Judith Light and Stephen Lang), who prescribe a regimen that involves abstaining from caffeine, nicotine and sex, and engaging in daily work and weekly prayer. For Gayle and Ted, homosexuality is an addiction that can be cured. For Mark and Scott, who derive many benefits from the program including forgiveness, the side effect is asexuality.
While the perfunctory direction makes an after-school special look sophisticated by comparison, the performances, especially those of Gant and Light, are immensely involving. What's admirable about Save Me is that it grounds its religious and cultural debate not in vilifying one side but in sympathizing with both.
Save Me *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Robert Cary. With Chad Allen, Robert Gant and Judith Light. Distributed by First Run Features.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.
Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (brief sexuality, brief drugs, sexual candor)
Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse
Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or email@example.com. Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/