"The Young Messiah" is a movie that tells the story of Jesus Christ's seventh year. The screenplay is based on Anne Rice's novel CHRIST THE LORD: OUT OF EGYPT. It is an imagining of what Jesus would have been like as a child, and that is a subject matter that has not been presented on film. Director Cyrus Nowrasteh became familiar with Rice's novel after she contacted him as an admirer of his movie "The Stoning of Soroya M".
Nowrasteh would have used Anne Rice's title, he said recently, but early viewers said it caused them to expect a full story of Jesus' life. Therefore the more definitive "The Young Messiah" was adopted. By focusing on the seven-year-old Jesus the movie became about the greatest story never told. It shows a child who is a human Jesus but one who also knows he is somehow different.
Nowrasteh said the casting of Adam Greaves-Neal as Jesus was the key to making the film. "We did a worldwide search but it always came back to him," said Nowrasteh. "He was seven years old when we tested him and between eight and nine when we filmed."
It was perfect casting as Greaves-Neal possesses just the blend of innocence and intelligence to make the character believable. He also has the look some artists have projected as being the look of Christ as a child. There is also strong casting in the roles of Mary and Joseph (Sara Lazzaro and Vincent Walsh). As basically unknown actors they bring no preconceived notions of who or what they are. They are blank canvases upon which to build these characters. The only negative is they seem a bit old for their roles. Mary should be around twenty-one and Joseph a few years older.
Nowrasteh and his wife Betsy co-wrote the screenplay and kept it simple. They also adhered to traditional Christian thoughts on His divinity. The scene where Mary reveals to Jesus His origins is beautifully done and humbly stated. The cinematography by Joel Ransom and the musical score by John Debney elevate the message and make it chill-inducing.
All of the technical aspects of the movie are first-rate and Nowrasteh's direction is controlled and freeing. He is telling a story that is sacred to Christians around the world, but he also knows he has to make a movie that is entertaining. The inclusion of the story of the Roman soldier Severus (Sean Bean) allows for some tense moments in the movie as well as the inclusion of Herod (Jonathan Bailey) in the tale. Herod's crumbling mental state is shown subtly at first and then with more explicit evidence.
The pacing of the movie is such that there are no long pauses in the story. It moves with swiftness and extreme beauty. The film appears to be a labor of love for Nowrasteh and he succeeds in telling the story while maintaining its miraculous premise.
The movie is rated PG-13 for some mild violence.
"The Young Messiah" is a film that imagines the child Jesus. It does so with a strict adherence to the overall Biblical tale of the Christ. It should be welcomed by those of faith and should be enjoyed by this who wish to be entertained with a story well told.
I scored "The Young Messiah" a faithful 7 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper