June 29, 2016
To place things into proper context in terms of expectations, it is important to note that "The Young Messiah" was NOT based on biblical text. It is a fictional account of how Jesus was as a child. It was adapted from a novel entitled "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt" which was surprisingly written by Anne Rice, an author more known for her vampire novels. Expect literary artistic license here, not theology.
When news of King Herod's death was revealed to him, the carpenter Joseph decided to bring his wife Mary and child Jesus, together with some other relatives from Egypt back to Nazareth. Jesus was just seven years old then. Lately he had been discovering some new supernatural abilities he could do and this puzzled him. His parents though it was not yet the right time to answer his questions.In the meantime, the new King Herod Jr. got wind of the miraculous boy. Like his father before him, the jealous king ordered the chief Centurion Severus to go find the boy and kill him.
The child actor Adam Greaves-Neal played the child Jesus aptly with convincing innocence, curiosity and confusion as his character was written. Sara Lazzaro looked right as the compassionate Mother Mary. Her shining moment was that climactic scene when she finally revealed to her son his divinity. This for me was the best scene of the whole film that saves it and made it worth the time spent watching this. Vincent Walsh played a very capable Joseph, defining him as the father figure we knew very little about.
As the Demon, Rory Keenan looked awkwardly out of place with his modern look. Jonathan Bailey continues to portray Herod Jr. as the effeminate yet ruthless Jewish king, as his father had commonly been portrayed in previous biblical films. The most recognizable actor in the cast is good old Sean Bean (best known as Ned Stark on "Game of Thrones"). Physically, he looked miscast as the Roman centurion Severus. However, he somehow gave the "bad guy" some empathy with his strangely benign portrayal of a poorly-written character.
As Catholics, we believe that the first public miracle of Jesus was at the Wedding at Cana. However in this movie, we see Jesus perform major miracles even at the young age of seven. We are told that the child Jesus was not aware of his divine origins and great powers at all. These are very contentious issues which some Christians may hold against this work. However, personally I felt these matters were handled by director/writer Cyrus Nowrasteh with deep respect, as he mixed these fictional anecdotes with biblical context.
On the debit side, I felt that this directorial respect for the material may have also caused the pace of the storytelling to be too slow, becoming unengaging at many points. For me, it picked up only in the last thirty minutes, and this was a rather lengthy one hour and fifty minute film. A cynical non-believer would probably have tuned out before then. However, viewers of religious films like this will most likely watch with a sense of faith, and this faith will give them the patience to watch this all the way through. In return, they will be rewarded with a most satisfying ending. 7/10.