Rock for Jesus: Story of the Underdog
Aaron Driver was once the singer of a rising Christian Rock Band “Reborn.” Now, he’s struggling with suicidal thoughts and dealing with the fallout of his band, his friends, his faith, and the lost love of his life, Haley. But his world changes when a mysterious producer shows up and offers Aaron a chance to go to Los Angeles and restart his life and career.
In a unique documentary-style film, the life of Aaron Driver, a fictional Christian-rock band frontman, is examined and followed. This fresh approach to Christian filmmaking is intriguing and exciting. The story follows Aaron and the people in his life as he goes from “having it all” to “losing everything.” Aaron’s Christian band, Reborn, is becoming very successful, allowing him and his best friend/band mate to travel around Indiana doing what they love most: rocking for Jesus. Every night they are able to inspire faith and hope in others, accompanied by Aaron’s dutiful girlfriend, Hayley.
Little do those around him (or the viewers) know that everything is not as shiny and bright as they may appear. Concealed within Aaron’s life are some very dark truths that are revealed strategically (and brilliantly) throughout the film.
Despite being superficial in some respects, the plot does address a very important topic: suicide awareness and prevention. As a person who has struggled with suicidal thoughts the majority of my life, I respect what the minds behind this film were doing. You can see the heart and passion they put into the project in every beautiful aerial shot, every dramatic moment, every dark reveal. The cinematography is gripping and flawless, the acting is believable and heartfelt. Visually, the film is beautiful to look at, which is no small feat considering it was a passion project with a limited budget. Musically, the film is top notch, featuring original music from the star, writer and director himself, Joel Jackson. I was pleasantly surprised by the lyrical and vocal quality of the songs used in the film and found myself commenting that I would enjoy listening to them again.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the film lies in its own claims that there is always “a light in the darkness.” While Rock for Jesus offers us plenty of drama and darkness, it offers very little hope, very little biblical substance, and leaves this viewer, at least, with a lot of questions. In my opinion, the film relies too heavily on romantic relationships as a catalyst for action and does not set a healthy pattern for godly relationships before, during or after any of Aaron’s many phases. From a main character who goes from proclaiming Christ to acting very un-Christlike at the drop of a hat, to cliché salvation scenes that don’t result in true change, Rock for Jesus promises hope but doesn’t really deliver as well as it could. My take, however, is that the content of the film is purposely disjointed and dark because that’s how our main character feels. And the simple victory of continuing to live, continuing the story God has for him, however twisted and complex it may be, is hope.
Rock for Jesus is an undeniably unique, creative film with a style that is uncommon and fresh to the world of Christian film. While it doesn’t offer the sound resolution I would like, Rock for Jesus has something to say, and I think it’s worth listening to. Because Rock for Jesus deals with subject matter that is for mature viewers, such as suicide and complex issues of faith, the film has been awarded the Dove Seal of Approval for Ages 18+.
The Dove Take:
Rock for Jesus is an undeniably unique, creative film with a style that is uncommon and fresh to the world of Christian film.