Rated: PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: March 11, 2016 Released by: Focus Features
Like listening to a Sunday School dialogue The Young Messiah attempts to fill in a year (when he was seven) in the life of Christ which has no basis in literature or even religious construction. It is generally accepted that Jesus was a quiet carpenter until he reached out at about thirty leading to his crucifixion after a few years. Anything between his Christmas birth comes with out barriers and so what is depicted here may or may not have happen, no one knows.
That freedom leaves the author of the novel (Anne Rice) and screenplay by Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh the ability to propose what ever they want to fill in the pages in the life of Christ in his seventy year.
Young Adam Greaves-Neal carries the early life of Christ effectively even when he appears to be rather weak when challenged. He also looks rather feminine because he is so cute. His Christ does show knowledge and questions the Rabbis he comes into contact with. But in this early time of his life he along with his parents and other relatives move to Egypt and back to Judea where he faces Severus (Sean Bean) a loyal Roman Empire soldier who is directed to find a child that might have survived the killing of all new born boys near the time of Jesus' birth. That cat and mouse game is played throughout this script.
Jesus runs and plays like a kid but is haunted by the image of The Demon played like Snidley Wiplash by Rory Keenan who appears at key times and forces young Jesus to begin to face what his life will be as he grows older. He surprises Jesus and at one time the young boy yells 'him him' and it sounds like young Sandy Descher yelling 'them them' in the fifties film Them.
Vincent Walsh as Joseph the father is the strong leader of his family standing up for his relatives and particularly Jesus using his ability and his look to keep his them safe. He expresses and looks determined and strong, more of what one would expect from Christ even at a young age.
Jesus performs a few miracles but they appear to only impress the audience and not the folks he exists with two thousand years ago. This is a little made up story which speaks more to the horror of a pure dictatorship with a police force that has unbounded power to kill and destroy its people and how one who is unimportant as Jesus was at that time had no power or influence to deal with justice.
This might have been more interesting if Adam Greaves-Neal had the role of a young child viewing all the ugly unbalanced distribution of force and growing up to battle it. Jesus does that but through religion and faith, it would be more unique if this character had grown to be the military leader who blinks and later saves Jesus from being killed as a child.
But this is a religious film with a targeted audience and it will be enjoyed or experienced at that level, but it is not impressive cinema.
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