The purpose and background of The Young Messiah is perfectly set up before the opening scene of the film, which finds a young Jesus interacting with his peers in Alexandria, Egypt. The film imagines a year of Jesus’ life, and journeys with him and his family from Egypt to Nazareth and Jerusalem. Along the way, the audience experiences adventures of a young Jewish child in the midst of the Roman Empire, wrestles with questions from Jesus who doesn’t understand who he is, and watches an attempted assassination unfold.
One of the most strikingly powerful scenes in the entire film is when Jesus and his family are walking to Nazareth and they stumble upon a valley lined with crosses. The viewers obviously know that Jesus’ life will be ended by a crucifixion, but the boy Jesus and his family have no idea of that fact. As they walk through the valley, Mary quotes one of the most prominent Psalms – Psalm 23. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
There has been a decent amount of Christian films recently, and The Young Messiah based on Anne Rice’s novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt hits theaters a few weeks before Easter, a prime time to release a faith-based film. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the film and those involved in making it aren’t claiming that the film was intended to be “biblical”, but rather a depiction of an untold story of Jesus’ boyhood. It’s obviously impossible for the film to truly be biblical, because the Bible doesn’t speak to the boyhood of Jesus.
In an interview with Fox News, Chris Columbus, producer of “The Young Messiah” (known for producing films such as The Help, Harry Potter, and Home Alone) states that the film is “not based on scripture.” Even though the film isn’t intended to be Biblically accurate, the director still had several theologians consulting with him throughout the process of the film, striving to be as accurate to the time period as possible, but stating that, “It’s not biblically correct, because it doesn’t happen in the bible.”
When asked if Columbus thought if there was an aversion in Hollywood to faith films, Columbus said, “Not at all, because faith based films seem to be doing very well at the box office. Risen (read our review here) just did very well at the box office. There’s a huge audience for faith based films. Now remember, this is the original story of one of the greatest people to have ever lived.”
I’d recommend this film, with one caveat for parents: I would be careful taking younger children who aren’t able to distinguish between truth and fiction. I think it’s important when communicating the Bible to children that they understand what’s Biblical and what’s fabrication. The film was beautifully done, and a refreshing film to see as we prepare for Easter.
Original CBC review by Chelsea Patterson
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