The film was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards ("Best Movie" & "Best Actress"), and Sigourney Weaver was nominated for the 2010 Golden Globe Award, and the 2010 Screen Actors Guild Award. It also won the 2010 GLAAD Media Award, and producers were nominated for the 2010 Producers Guild of America Award. The film won the 2010 Entertainment Industry Coalition PRISM Award ("Best Movie for Television"). In 2015, executive producers Daniel Sladek & Chris Taaffe were invited by the Vice President of the EU to the European Parliament in Brussels where they presented Prayers for Bobby to Members of Parliament on International Homophobia Day.
Mary Griffith is a devout Christian who raises her children—Ed, Bobby, Joy and Nancy—according to the evangelical teachings of her local Presbyterian church in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Walnut Creek, California.
Ed finds Bobby resisting temptations to overdose on Aspirin as an initial suicide attempt before Bobby confides to him that he is gay. Life changes for the entire family after Mary learns about his secret. In hopes of converting him, she takes him to a psychiatrist, who explains to Bobby's parents that a person's homosexuality is the result of lacking a close relationship with parental figures. She then advises Bobby to pray harder and seek solace in Church activities, as well as to arrange a special bonding time with his father. While spending such quality time with his father, Bobby explains his desire to become a writer, to which his father suggests "some dreams are just not realistic."
Bobby's father and siblings slowly come to terms with his homosexuality, but Mary believes God can cure him. To get away from his family, Bobby visits his cousin Jeanette in Portland, Oregon; she has always been accepting of his sexual orientation and tries to help him realize that his mother will never change. Desperate for his mother's approval, he does what is asked of him, but through it all, the Church's disapproval of homosexuality and his mother's attempts to suppress his growing behaviors in public cause him to grow increasingly withdrawn and depressed.
Stricken with guilt, Bobby finds a boyfriend, David, at a gay bar. Nonetheless, before leaving the house with David, Mary informs Bobby that she "will not have a gay son." After Bobby finds David betraying him for another boy, he continues to think of his mother's words of prejudice, i.e., when saying "homosexuality is a sin and (gays) are doomed to spend eternity in hell," as well as calling him "sick," "perverted," and "a danger to our children." Following his subsequent depression and self-loathing which intensifies, one night he free falls off a bridge on a highway into the path of an oncoming eighteen-wheeler truck, which kills him instantly. The family receives the news the following day and are devastated.
Faced with their tragedy, Mary begins to question herself and her Church's interpretation of the Scripture. Through her long and emotional journey, Mary slowly reaches out to the gay community and discovers unexpected support from them. She becomes acquainted with a local reverend of the Metropolitan Community Church, who convinces her to attend a meeting of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). It is there she recalls Bobby being different from conception and reassures herself that his true value was in his heart.
Mary then gives a speech in a Walnut Creek city council meeting supporting a local "gay day" live on television. She tells of her experiences with Bobby, the struggles she initially had coping with him coming out of the closet and her stubbornness to reevaluate her religious beliefs which were nothing more than "bigotry" and "dehumanizing slander." Mary also acknowledges how she came to realize that Bobby's sexual orientation was quite natural in God's image and his suicide was subsequently due to poor parenting. She concludes her speech by urging people to think before they say, voice, or support homophobia because "a child is listening." The measure is rejected, but Mary and her family travel to San Francisco with fellow PFLAG members and walk in a gay pride parade, during which she sees another young man just like Bobby observing the parade. She walks over and hugs him, finally coming to terms with her son's death and vowing to work hard for the rights of gays and lesbians.Sigourney Weaver as Mary Griffith
Henry Czerny as Robert Griffith
Ryan Jonathan Kelley as Bobby Griffith
Austin Nichols as Ed Griffith
Dan Butler as the Rev. Whitsell
Carly Schroeder as Joy Griffith
Shannon Eagen as Nancy Griffith
Scott Bailey as David
Bryan Endress-Fox as Greg
Rebecca Louise Miller as Jeanette
Marshall McClean as Reverend Owens
Mary Griffith as herself in the Pride Parade scene
Executive Producers David Permut, Daniel Sladek & Chris Taaffe initiated and championed the project over a period of thirteen years. The film was directed by Russell Mulcahy. Screenwriter Katie Ford based the teleplay off the noted best-selling book Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of Her Gay Son by Leroy F. Aarons, a journalist who interviewed Mary Griffith about her experiences that led to the suicide of her son as well as her work advocating for the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. Produced by Once Upon A Times Films, Ltd in association with Permut Presentations and Sladek Taaffe Productions, the executive producers were Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe, David Permut and Stanley M. Brooks.
The final scene of the film features Leona Lewis' "Here I Am". In addition to "I Need You to Listen" by Megan McCormick, the song used in the trailer is titled My Name is Lincoln which was composed by Steve Jablonsky and was originally part of the soundtrack of The Island.
Prayers For Bobby received 3.8 million total viewers during the film's January 24, 2009 premiere on Lifetime, with 2.3 million total viewers subsequently during the January 25, 2009 airdate with a combined total of 6.1 million viewers.
Brian Lowry of Variety wrote "Sigourney Weaver's TV movie debut proves worth the wait, as Lifetime's fact-based Prayers for Bobby revisits ground similar to that broken nearly 25 years ago by the AIDS-themed "An Early Frost" and – thanks to enduring religious-based bigotry toward gays – still feels fresh and poignant."
On December 7, 2010, Prayers for Bobby was released on DVD.
Sigourney Weaver received the Trevor Life Award from The Trevor Project for her participation in the film. The award was presented by Anne Hathaway.
Prayers for Bobby was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards:Outstanding Made for Television Movie
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Sigourney Weaver)
On December 15, 2009, Weaver was nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television for her performance.
In 2010, Weaver was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.
In 2010, Prayers for Bobby won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Movie or Miniseries during the 21st GLAAD Media Awards.
The film won an award at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.