CPE and Em: The Nativity Story offers a view of grace in dark times

The Nativity Story – 2006

Directed by  Catherine Hardwicke
Starring  Keshia Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Ciarán Hinds, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Stanley Townshend, Shaun Toub, Alessandro Giuggioli, Hiam Abbass, Alexander Siddig, Eriq Ebouaney, Stefan Kalipha, Nadim Sawalha

Much of the news surrounding The Nativity Story had to do with the personal drama of then 16-year-old Keshia Castle-Hughes announcing that she pregnant during the publicity tour of the movie.  The receipts for the film were modest, but many used the appearance of impropriety to condemn the film, giving average reviews at best.  Think of it as throwing the first stone. What seems to be lacking in most analysis of the film is, although it has to do with the birth of a child, the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey is a harrowing one, filled with harsh realities of life filled with burdens.  Indeed, it is life outside of Eden.

There are expressions of joy, hope and love in The Nativity Story, but the magnitude of the proceedings works its way through every frame.  The actors are all up to the task.  Most interesting is the portrayal of Joseph by Oscar Isaacs.  I never gave much thought to the Joseph as a man in the past.  Isaacs completely humanizes him, and with that, brings an immense heroism to life.  His humility, hard work and his desire for his wife are all in ample evidence here.  The burden is an immense one, both physically, emotionally and spiritually, and I feel it every moment the camera meets his eyes.  His portrayal  allows us to see that Joseph’s role as Jesus’ father is not an accident.  It is a measure of grace.

Mary, as played by Castle-Hughes, is humble, earnest, and rather plainly beautiful.  Her face carries very little in the way of naiveté, but a thin veil of innocence.  Her resolve is tested, and she keeps her head low.  It is an unenviable task to portray the mother of God.  No one could ever possibly measure up to the task?  Castle-Hughes seems undaunted by this, however, and she carries a winsome, weary and graceful smile.

The rest of the performances are not distracting, and that is hard to do with a Biblical story.  There are not any grandstanding moments or any scenery chewing.  Hinds’ King Herod is appropriately menacing and fearful.  The Three Wise Men are excellently portrayed as the optimists as they appeared in the texts.  There is a little some dramatic tension created when Gaspar (Kalipha) balks at the ideas of his friends, Balthasar (Ebouaney) and Melchior (Sawalha, who was unforgettable in another movie dealing with virginity, starring Steve Carell).

The Nativity Story does an admirable job bringing to life a story that has 2000 years of bias, prejudice and ideals behind it.  Hardwicke smartly went the humble and stark route.  In doing so, she allowed the gravity and the grace find their way to the screen.
Emily’s review:

I give the movie ***out of 5.  I do not like how Joseph looked.  His beard is too long and all I saw of his face was his teeth.  Mary was very pretty.  I think that Mary was too young to give birth to a child.

The first wise man (Melchior), I would give him 4* out of 5*.  The second (Balthazar), I would give him 5 out of 5.  Last and least I give to the 3rd “Wise Guy” I give 0 out of 5, because he was not ready to go with the others.

I think that might have been their choice to try to add a little dramatic tension, and I am not sure the way it really happened.

But, still I don’t like that.

How did you like King Herrod?

Killing the cow was not very nice.  If you kill an animal, I’m gonna kick him in the face.

What about when they killed all the boy’s in Bethlehem?

So rude.  R-U-D-E.

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