The Young Messiah
In this consideration of the movie ‘The Young Messiah’, I felt it prudent to preface it with a statement that although it touches on several religious topics I am firmly established my own personal spiritual beliefs and approach this movie as a means of entertainment not as a means to evangelize. As the name implies it follows the life of Jesus Christ he was still young boy. Some of the details were obviously taken from apocryphal gospel gospels collectively known as the protevangelium, early Christian non-Canon writings that precede the more accepted gospels of the Christian-Greek Scriptures. In particular the writings utilized while the ‘Infancy Gospel of Thomas’ and to some extent a similar writing by James. The only mention of Jesus before his baptism at age 30 is an event that occurred when he was around 12 years of age and he amazed the rabbis at the Temple with a preternatural understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. The protevangelium attempts to provide some insight into the boy, Jesus Bar Joseph as he discovered that his true nature was unlike any other person. As a film it does avoid falling into the trap of being overly preachy by pushing the viewpoint contained in the apocryphal writings. Several aspects of the story are presented as an alternate historical account or perhaps an attempt to contractually open the gaps found in the biblical canon. That brings the story down to a narrative driven by character development. In that regard the film does achieve a certain level of success. It not only probes the psychological turmoil and emotional changes that Jesus encounters at the age of seven to its credit it also considers the changes incurred by his parents and other members of his extended family. Unfortunately the movie has difficulty in maintaining a congruent narrative. The movie is not heavy-handed sufficiently to present a strong religion viewpoint and was inconsistent in achieving the required cohesiveness and storytelling to achieve its potential as a means of entertainment.
As the film begins Joseph (Vincent Walsh) his young wife Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and this seven-year-old son Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) are residing in Egypt. Around the time of Jesus’ birth Joseph had a dream divine origin take his family away from Bethlehem remain in Egypt until he is told to return. As it turns out the rationale for this act was to help protect them from the bloodthirsty and treacherous reign of the treacherous Jewish King Herod. Having obtained the services of three kings of the Far East to use their acumen in astrology to isolate the newly born Messiah Herod had hoped to be able to kill this threat to his position. When the Magi failed to return thee ordered the slaughter of all Jewish boys under the age of two. The see Jesus is in the street as other children are playing. The local young bully, Eleazer (Jacopo Alaimo) is severely physically tormenting a little girl. Jesus intervenes asking the boy to stop. Watching the proceedings is a strange man working in the shadows with ice blue eyes and a blonde goatee, obviously a demon (Rory Keenan) or perhaps Satan himself. He is casually eating an apple casually discard the apple which falls under the foot of the bully causing him to fall backwards hitting his head on the stones. The boy is dead and with the instigation of the strange man the crowd soon blames Jesus for the death. Jesus runs home to his family while the boy’s mother (Dorotea Mercuri) brings us on the body back to their home. Jesus sneaks out and goes to the refilled home and sneaking into the boys room touches him bringing him back to life. The crowd starts thanking God for the miracle until the demon turns the sentiment into accusing Jesus of being possessed by demons. The crowd begins to demand that Joseph take his family and leave to which Joseph replies that thanks to a recent dream he was planning to do just that any way.
The young Jesus is reserved by nature; respectful, obedient to his parents an obviously greatly loved by greatly them. They are traveling with their relatives, all of which realize that there is something very special about the boy. Jesus is confused, beset by questions that the adults refused to answer. They attempt to placate the boy by telling him to wait; his father will let him know the proper time. He politely accedes but his curiosity remains unabated. They continue their trek out of Egypt back to their home in Bethlehem. On the way they come across a woman, a slave fleeing from her abusive master. Jesus intervenes and her owner backs off and the woman joins them in their travel. Cleopas (Christian McKay) has a chronic respiratory ailment which is miraculously cured by Jesus. After which he pulls them both under water, they happened to have been standing in a river, leading to a scene that is supposed to foreshadow his baptism 23 years later with his cousin John the Baptizer. Exhibiting the contrived nature of this plot device the young Jesus goes off on alone reminiscent his forty days in the wilderness that followed his baptism. Such forced references to the canonic bible dilutes any spiritual message that might be included and takes the audience out of the contextual boundaries of the story,
The spiritual villain of the story is the creepy demon whispering to people setting them against Jesus but in order to ground the tale in a more relatable to the viewers and assist in proper historical placement the truly evil big bad is Herod (Jonathan Bailey), whose father, Herod the Great who ordered the mass infanticide seven years ago. Paranoia takes hold of him when he hears rumors of a boy that can perform miracles. He dispatches a trusted Centurion, Severus (Sean Bean), to track down the child and murder him. The cruelty of the Romans particularly towards the Jews, at one point Jesus and his family have to walk down a section of road where Jews suspected of rebellion and treason where crucified along both sides. When Severus is order to mercilessly slaughter a child he mentions to s friend, "we’ve killed children before", such atrocities are just a routine aspect in the Roman legion.
The ending is underwhelming and anticlimactic trying to score an emotionally intense moment that cannot break free of the sluggish storyline and generate a powerful conclusion.