The Young Messiah Parent Review
Though not all Christians will be on board, this movie is respectful of its subject. It seems like a natural choice to show children, but depictions of violence will likely make it too graphic.
The Young Messiah wades into the uncharted waters of Jesus Christ’s childhood, a segment of biblical history that is only given one reference in the Holy Bible (Luke 2: 40-51). Of course Hollywood has never let a lack of facts get in the way of making up a good yarn. And certainly the sanctity of the Bible won’t scare them off. After all, who’s going to sue for libel? However, Catholics in the audience may be more familiar with the script of this film, which appears to be inspired by apocryphal writings.
The movie opens with Jesus’s family living in Egypt. After Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) raises another young boy from the dead, the locals look upon him with skepticism and accuse him of satanic powers. At about the same time his father, Joseph (Vincent Walsh), informs the family that he has had a dream similar to the one he received at Christ’s birth when he was told to leave Bethlehem (Matthew, Chapter 2). It is now time to return to their homeland.
Along with his mother Mary (Sara Lazzaro), Uncle Cleopas (Christian McKay) and other family members, the small contingent begins their journey through a land teaming with Roman soldiers who are quick to slice, dice and crucify anyone who may even look at them the wrong way. Coming around a bend, the travelers see the path ahead lined with crosses placed like fence posts from which hang men in various degrees of agony and death. It’s a terrible trip that doesn’t improve when they arrive at Nazareth and are, once again, greeted by yet another Roman centurion, Severus (Sean Bean). The deft dialogue of Jesus’s grandmother Sarah (Jane Lapotaire) and the gift of wine and sweets are all that keep the soldiers at bay.
Even that peace doesn’t last long. King Herod has just died and his son, the younger Herod (Jonathan Bailey), hears rumors of a boy who can perform miracles. Remembering his father’s technique of killing every child in Bethlehem he suggests a more targeted method this time and orders Severus to find the Christ child, once and for all.
This movie would seem to be a natural choice to show to children—and it really should be. Sadly disturbing depictions like the crucifixion scenes, along with other bloody stabbings and violence, will likely make it too graphic for audiences around the same age as the young protagonist. Also shown is a man attacking a woman (characters vaguely refer to his sexual intentions), and a scantily clad female dancing for a king.
Not all Christians will be on board with this portrayal of Jesus Christ. He’s a child who discovers he has special powers, yet has no idea why. His father is unwilling to explain, feeling the boy is too young to comprehend. In addition, the idea of a young Messiah performing miracles prior to the beginning of his New Testament ministry may not be in harmony with some viewer’s understanding of the gospels. Perhaps the best way to approach this creative endeavor is to remember it’s not church… it’s a movie. And it does deal with its subject with reverence and respect. If you know nothing about Jesus Christ, this portrait may help paint a picture of his wisdom, his love for others and his divine origin. Considering this education is happening at the local multiplex, it’s a reasonably good outcome.Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh. Starring Sean Bean, Adam Greaves-Neal, Sara Lazzaro, Jonathan Bailey. Running time: 111 minutes. Theatrical release March 11, 2016. Updated June 14, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Young Messiah here.
The Young Messiah Parents Guide
What type of child do you imagine Christ to be? Does the movie fit your expectation? Why or why not? Does this portrayal make you feel more or less respect for Jesus?
Over the past few years there has been a dramatic increase in movies targeted toward Christian audiences. What do you feel is motivating Hollywood’s interest in this niche market? What are the pros and cons of having more religious films in movie theaters? What other faith groups might be underrepresented in entertainment circles?
The Young Messiah is overtly religious. Can you think of other movies that may not appear to have religious content, yet still contain themes centering on faith and a belief in a supreme being/entity?