Acoming-of-age story set in a Southwestern high school, “Jesus Freak” is an uneven, at times endearing tale of redemption and self-discovery that gives an updated twist on the Mary Magdalene story. Offbeat item could pop up on fest rounds.
Lily (screenwriter Laura Lee Bahr) is a socially awkward, sweet but heavyset high school senior who compensates for her low self-esteem by sleeping with any guy who will have her. Her promiscuous reputation brands her a slut; her public questioning of Christianity (in a class of Born-Agains, no less) further distances Lily from her schoolmates. After one too many nights of popping pills and ingesting cough syrup, Lily has a conversion experience. Shadowed for days by a tall, bearded stranger (Josh Kantor), Lily begins to believe the taciturn outsider is Jesus Christ himself. Not your typical Christ (this guy plays Nintendo and loves junk food), the visitor helps Lily begin to heal and finally to love herself. There’s a Claire Danes quality to Bahr’s gentle, nuanced performance that solidly anchors the film, but other thesps are all over the map. Technical aspects are similarly inconsistent: Hi def video can lend emotional intimacy or a made-on-the-cheap student film quality; here it does both.