The Young Messiah guarantees to evoke emotion. However, your emotional reaction will depend upon two critical areas. First, how you rate movie quality (acting, cinematography, etc...). Second, how much importance do you place on accuracy of scripture and commonly held Christian doctrine. A fair review of this movie must look at both criteria.
Let's first unpack the cinematography for those who are most concerned with just watching a good movie. The director and producers of The Young Messiah brought all of their cinematic expertise and visual experience to the table. Most of the scenes were done outside, but unless you knew the region, you would not know that most of the movie was filmed in Italy, not Israel and Egypt, where the story is set.
Overall the acting was good but not great. However, it won’t take long for Jesus, played by Adam Greaves-Neal to captivate your heart. Director Cyrus Nowrasteh did a masterful job of capturing the innocence and charm that most would expect from a 7 year old Jesus. The supporting cast did not distract from the story while the character of Jesus was on full display in a way that you will remember.
Now we’ll move on to scriptural accuracy and Christian doctrine. This is where things could get dicey for some. Without giving the movie away I’ll point out a couple things that are worth considering.
The movie portrays Jesus as a 7-year old boy who doesn’t know who He is but knows that He is somehow, well, different. Keep in mind that the only scriptural references to a young Jesus is in the gospels and are few and far between. What we do know is that He was born in Bethlehem, escaped to Egypt with His parents as an infant and he wandered away from his caravan when He was 12 years old and was found in the temple listening and asking questions to the priests. The lack of information given in scripture leaves a lot of room for artistic license and the screen writers and producer takes plenty in the Young Messiah.
Another issue is that Jesus was found in the temple with the rabbis at age 12, not 7. He then said to His parents “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? This statement shows that Jesus, at age 12, did know who He was and what He was about. Are these problematic? I’ll leave that to the scholars and the movie viewers to decide.
The Young Messiah was a good movie that most will find scripturally accurate, to a degree.
I have to admit that I walked into the movie skeptical and ready to not like it but I left with a warm heart and an enhanced visual of the most influential person that ever walked the Earth.
Chuck Gipson - Strategy Team Leader for Latin America and Caribbean for The Jesus Film Project