Film Review by Kam Williams
Adaptation of Anne Rice Best Seller Chronicles Critical Year in the Life of the Christ Child
2015 was certainly a banner year for Christian-oriented fare, with over 30 faith-based films being released in theaters. 2016 appears to be following suit, with Risen, The Lady in the Van and The Witch among the offerings already featuring heavy religious overtones.
Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M.), The Young Messiah is a Biblical bildungsroman chronicling critical events which transpired during a momentous year in the life of the Christ child (Adam Greaves-Neal). The intriguing historical drama was adapted from "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a best seller by the legendary Anne Rice, the Grand Dame of Gothic Fiction.
That debut foray into Christian-themed literature represented a big departure for Rice who nevertheless earned Beliefnet's 2005 Book of the Year for her opus based on the Gospels as well as on theological scholarship. And now Nowrasteh has brought a version of the story to the big screen certain to capture the imagination of the target churchgoing demographic.
After all, the New Testament reveals precious little about Jesus' formative years, and this ambitious project manages to flesh them out ever so convincingly. As the film unfolds, we find Him living in Alexandria and behaving like your typical 7 year-old while His parents, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh), struggle with how to go about explaining the concept of God to His own Son.
We also learn that they have been living in exile because of King Herod's (Jonathan Bailey) order his soldiers to massacre all the young boys of Bethlehem. The maniacal despot was determined to prevent the rumored Messiah from ever seizing the throne. Herod's demise frees the family to return home, although the obsessed centurion Severus (Sean Bean) is still searching for Jesus and sees a little King of the Jews lurking behind every rock.
Meanwhile, Jesus goes about inadvertently healing His sick uncle, curing a blind rabbi, and raising both a bully and a bird back from the dead. And He performs plenty of random acts of kindness, too.
But He remains desperate for an explanation of these superpowers until Mary finally 'fesses up about everything from the Immaculate Conception to the Virgin Birth to His divine destiny. A plausible, cinematic parable presuming to fill in gaps in the Biblical narrative of the Lord's early life.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence and mature themes
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Focus Features
To see a trailer for The Young Messiah, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EynFdirgmY