The Young Messiah movie full length review - "The Young Messiah" is very original and surprisingly entertaining.
"Jesus, who is called the Christ," as the Bible refers to him, is likely the most famous person who has ever walked the earth, but surprisingly little has been written about his formative years.
Stories about his conception and birth, his three-year-long ministry, and the circumstances surrounding and immediately following his death have been told, re-told, written about, interpreted, edited, translated, discussed and argued about for over two millennia, but those stories account for only about 10% of the time Jesus spent on earth. What of the other 90%? It's interesting to speculate. Of course, part of that speculation would have to include the question of what Jesus was like as a child. That's the speculation into which "Interview with the Vampire" author Anne Rice delved in her 2005 historical fiction novel "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt", which led to the 2016 feature film "The Young Messiah" (PG-13, 1:51).
Jesus (as played by Adam Greaves-Neal) is shown to be the most extraordinary ordinary seven-year-old boy who ever lived. Such are the contradictory but co-existing natures of the Jesus of Christianity ? simultaneously both human and divine, or, as the Bible calls him, Immanuel, meaning "God with us". The child Jesus loves to run and laugh and play, but he can also be very serious ? displaying an inquisitive nature ? and showing deep concern when he observes suffering and death. While playing on the sea shore, he sees a dead bird lying in the sand. He picks up the bird, holds it in his hands for a moment, and then the bird flies away. Incidents like this naturally lead Jesus to ask his mother, Mary (Sara Lazzaro), why he can do things other children cannot. Mary and Joseph (Vincent Walsh) agree that Jesus is too young to understand who he is ? and they're not sure that they can even explain it to him.
While the duality of Jesus' nature is a central theme throughout this film, the plot revolves around something else entirely. As the movie opens, Jesus and his family are living in Egypt ? where the Bible says Joseph took his family when Jesus was an infant in order to save him from King Herod's order to murder all baby boys in Judea (in case the rumors of the birth of a Jewish messiah were true). Now, seven years later, Joseph says he has been told in a dream that Herod is dead and it's time to take his family back to their homeland. The journey is a long and dangerous one ? through areas in which Roman soldiers fight, kill and sometimes crucify rebels and others that they consider a threat to Roman rule. But the greatest dangers are those that the family doesn't yet know are there ? a Roman centurion (Sean Bean) and his men who are under orders from the new king (Jonathan Bailey) to find and kill the Jewish boy who is rumored to be performing miracles among the people ? and a demon (Rory Keenan) who repeatedly puts Jesus in danger and appears to him in a dream demanding to know who he really is.
"The Young Messiah" is one of the best ? and most original movies about Jesus I've ever seen. Anne Rice's story, as adapted for the screen by director Cyrus Nowrasteh and his wife Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh mostly sticks within the framework of what the Bible has to say about Jesus' childhood ? and his character as a person. (This film shows Jesus performing miracles even though the Bible says that his first miracle was as an adult. However, the few miracles we see the child Jesus performing are in front of relatively small groups of people, so his first adult miracle could be understood to be his first public miracle ? the one that was meant to be seen as the beginning of his adult ministry? or not. It's up to you.) The film is interesting, historically realistic (or "mostly" realistic, depending on whether you believe in miracles) and contains drama, action, surprises and tender, heartfelt moments. The performances are all strong (especially from Greaves-Neal) and the conversations and interactions feel authentic and very human. "The Young Messiah" is a well-produced and surprisingly entertaining film. "A"