Extracanonical tales might get the hackles of some more by-the-book faith-based film enthusiasts up, but as Stephen King has said of adaptations “free to take the original down from your bookshelf anytime you want. Nothing between the covers has changed a bit.” This is even more crucial when you also consider the fact that this film is based on a novel by Anne Rice, during her return to the Catholic Church, it should keep this duality of film and text further in focus.
As such, The Young Messiah succeeds tremendously on its own merits. It features a bombastic symphonic score by John Debney reminiscent of the earlier days of film. It also employs the convention of British accents representing people speaking in a foreign language, which is one of the oldest to film — and one that must continue to be accepted on occasion even in light of more intriguing alternatives that have been demonstrated.
What brings it home the most, however, is that it creates its drama through relatable challenges namely of how to speak to your child on difficult topics, the obvious difference being that there is a far more difficult topic Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh) feel that they need to discuss with their young child in this film.
While the Young Lord’s (Adam Greaves-Neal) true nature has not been discussed with Him, what is also a source of conflict is that he is seeing visions, many of them of a Demon (Rory Keenan), that create conflict and foreshadow the revelation of His nature. In Gospel terms these visions would foreshadow the temptation of Christ, and some other allusions are there to make for those who know the tales.
However, for those who may not know Gospels or the life of Jesus the crafting of a familiarly classical plot, without relying on the same old tropes, make it an experience young viewers could easily enjoy and get involved in. Furthermore, a tale of the story of Christ and his family as refugees cannot possibly be more topical at this date in time. This is highly recommended title and is available on both physical media and digitally.
Note: This review was first published in Glad Tidings! Volume IX, Issue 8, September 2016, St. David’s Episcopal Church, Wilmington, DE. Reprinted with Permission.