From beginning to end, the emotional impact of Prayers for Bobby will leave you reaching for a tissue.
The screenplay for Prayers for Bobby is from the biographical novel by Leroy Aarons about the Griffith family. Sigourney Weaver plays her role as the matriarch Mary Griffith perfectly. Mary Griffith (Sigourney Weaver) is a devout Christian who believes that by the power of God and of prayer, all problems have a solution. Mary and her husband, Robert Griffith (Henry Czerny), raise their children under a conservative religious perspective. Their young son, Bobby (Ryan Kelley), believes he is gay. For years, Bobby has dealt with confusion, inner turmoil, and shame. Naturally, he is terrified to tell his family. Bobby knows his secret will change the way his parents and siblings look at him forever.
In a moment of desperation, Bobby reveals he is gay to his older brother, Ed (Austin Nichols). Bobby begs Ed to keep his secret, but Ed tells their mother. Mary’s reaction is to heal her son by the power of prayer. She places note cards with inspirational quotes from the Bible all over the house. Mary sends Bobby to a therapist. She tries everything she can to cure Bobby. However, Bobby’s only desire is to remain close with his family. Mary’s efforts end up driving him away. He drops out of high school, makes new gay friends, and goes to gay bars.
Bobby flees to Portland, Oregon, to spend some time with his free-spirit cousin. For two months, he tries to be a better person and to accept his homosexuality. He meets a nice boy and falls in love. When Bobby returns home, he feels alienated by his family. After a confrontation with his mother, Bobby commits suicide to escape the heartache. His suicide rattles the entire Griffith family.
After Bobby’s death, Mary tries to understand why her son committed suicide and where he is in the afterlife. She seeks the advice in self-help novels and eventually finds her way to Reverend Whitesell (Dan Butler). Reverend Whitesell is the head of a church that does not promote hate towards homosexuals. This church supports gay individuals and their families through all the difficulties they may experience. Mary listens to the Reverend about his beliefs and practices, and begins to question her own religion. She visits the local PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group and hears the stories of other parents with gay children. Mary believes her ignorance and blind faith drove Bobby to commit suicide.
It is sad to say that only after Bobby’s death, did Mary begin to accept her son. A reluctant hero, Mary Griffith becomes a strong and active voice for the rights of homosexuals.
The video aspect ratio is 1.33:1. Compared to A-list films, the video quality of Prayers for Bobby is average. There is nothing outstanding or bad to report. However, compared to other Lifetime television films, the video quality is better. Images are sharp and clear from color content to background focus.
The audio is available in Dolby Digital 2.0 with an English dialog track, but no subtitles. The audio sounds compressed throughout the film. It is difficult to make out the dialog from the soundtrack if the volume is set on a normal level on your television or monitor. I can say this is not typical for Lifetime films based upon the few I have seen on DVD. I can only surmise this is some sort of compression error.
The DVD of Prayers for Bobby is full of special features. The Behind the Scenes featurette is with executive producers Daniel Sladek and Chris Taafef. They talk about how they discovered the story, the steps they took towards production, and the significance of the project. The Meet the Stars featurette focuses on Sigourney Weaver, Ryan Kelley, Henry Czerny, and Dan Butler. Meet the Real Mary Griffith is a biographical segment on the film’s inspirational lead character. People describe Mary as a reluctant hero who took on a challenge to change people’s minds on gay and lesbian people. Prayers for Bobby won the award for best TV Movie or TV Mini-Series at the GLAAD Awards. The Road to the GLAAD Awards is the acceptance speech at the award ceremony by Sigourney Weaver and Daniel Sladek. The special feature collection also includes The Trevor Project Public Service Announcement with Daniel Radcliffe and the PFLAG Public Service Announcement with Sigourney Weaver.
The plot of Prayers for Bobby may sound familiar to people who frequently watch films or television series about the struggles of homosexuals. This does not make Prayers for Bobby any less affecting. It is a tragic, but beautiful story about the relationship between a mother and her son. While the mother is ignorant and hides behind her faith, the son will have the greatest impact on her. This impact comes at a tragic cost. It was the price for the mother to open her mind and her heart to understand her son. If you enjoy Lifetime films, I consider Prayers for Bobby to be one of the best. It is a beautiful film about loving family unconditionally, and listening even when you disagree with another person.