To guide your summer getaway book selections, try this formula: E=FB²
The Young Messiah is a movie about Jesus as a 7-year-old and opens with the line, “Inspired by Scripture.” So first things first: Any depiction of Jesus as a 7-year-old will come chiefly from the filmmaker’s imagination. Theologians may question whether Jesus performed miracles as a child, but the movie nails the central elements of Jesus’ nature.
The story is based on the 2005 novel by Anne Rice, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Cyrus Nowrasteh (see “Silenzio on the set” in this issue) handles the theological elements of this imagined story with care. Nothing contradicts Jesus’ full deity or His full humanity, and the movie presents the gospel without being preachy. With Risen imagining a storyline of a Roman soldier investigating Jesus’ resurrection, we might soon see more “inspired by” biblical movies.
Why go see another biblical movie after Risen? No one has done a movie about the God of the universe as a child who needs parental care. The supernatural is woven with the natural throughout. The movie depicts the devil as a man constantly lurking near Jesus, trying to figure out who He is and tempt Him. But we also have the natural: At one point Mary tells Jesus He needs “a meal and a nap.” Adam Greaves-Neal is very good as a young Jesus, but I hope one day a non-Anglo actor will get that role—for accuracy’s sake.
The character that needs more depth to give the story emotional punch is Severus (Sean Bean), the Roman centurion sent to find the reported Messiah and kill Him. “We had to be careful not to let [Severus’ story] dominate,” Nowrasteh told me. “His story is only pertinent in relation to the family and the boy.”
The movie has a PG-13 rating for “violence and thematic elements,” a harsh rating for a film with minimal violence. The DVD release will have a PG version. The Young Messiah isn’t a flawless masterpiece, but it is solid storytelling in an unexplored area of Jesus’ mind-blowing incarnation.