In so many cases, there is a disconnect to Bible stories. Both when we read of great deeds of the past and when we see films like The Ten Commandments, the characters take on mythological qualities that cause us to forget that they were real people, dealing with everyday life just like us, whom God chose for extraordinary purposes. The Nativity Story brilliantly emphasizes the humanity and vulnerability of Mary and Joseph, making them more relatable and real than any Sunday school lesson could.
Keisha Castle-Hughes plays a sensitive and courageous Mary, though I wish she didn’t look so continually melancholy. Oscar Isaac is the best Joseph I’ve seen thus far, presenting Joseph as the good man mentioned in the Bible but demonstrating that being righteous does not come without temptation and doubt. Their relationship is cool at first but slowly grows as Mary recognizes what a loving and honorable man she has married. Ciaran Hinds once again proves his skill as a villain as the brooding King Herod, and Shaun Toub of Iron Man is believably frustrated as Mary’s misunderstanding father. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays the trusting Elizabeth, and it’s interesting that this well-known Muslim actress is playing a Jewish character in a Christian movie.
Though it is clearly a Christian film, it isn’t preachy and utilizes more of the show-don’t-tell method, such as when Herod’s soldiers overlook humble Joseph and his pregnant wife because they are looking for a man of power. The actors themselves were touched by the film as well: Oscar Isaac said in an interview that in the scene in which he begs God for a sign, he actually saw a remarkably beautiful sunrise and had to hide his own awe.
The filmmakers took some creative license, such as downplaying the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds (probably for budget reasons), but the actual nativity scene is the most moving depiction of Jesus’ birth I’ve seen on film. There’s also the familiar misconception that the Magi were present with the shepherds, but that’s a minor objection.
I first saw The Nativity Story in the theater, and it has since become another Christmas Day tradition, a wonderful way to recall the real reason for the season. It’s not the most exciting movie, but it brings a simple Bible story to life in a relatable and beautiful way.
Best line: (Joseph, as villagers are glaring at their departure) “They’re going to miss us.”Artistry: 9 Characters/Actors: 9 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 6 Originality: 8 Watchability: 7 TOTAL: 47 out of 60
Next: #149 – Overboard
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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