246 of 250 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...and thou shalt call his name Jesus."
You know the plot: After young Mary is betrothed to an older man, she is told by an angel that she will bear God's son. She could be stoned for this pregnancy, but Joseph has a dream explaining the situation, and he takes her as his wife. They must then make the difficult journey to Bethlehem for the census, and they arrive just in time for the baby's birth in a...
Published on December 9, 2006 by Kona
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Compelling
I had expected to be bored, but found this film illuminating and quietly compelling. For the most part, the casting is good - Mary, Joseph, Herod. It's interesting to hear their accented readings, especially Gabriel's, even if of course they should be speaking Aramaic (and Farsi, for the wise men). I'm not sure of the astronomical accuracy regarding the Star - see...
Published on May 5, 2007 by Grimmy
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246 of 250 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...and thou shalt call his name Jesus.",
You know the plot: After young Mary is betrothed to an older man, she is told by an angel that she will bear God's son. She could be stoned for this pregnancy, but Joseph has a dream explaining the situation, and he takes her as his wife. They must then make the difficult journey to Bethlehem for the census, and they arrive just in time for the baby's birth in a stable.
It is a lovely story, told quite simply and tastefully. The costumes and village sets are rough-hewn and authentic-looking in earth-tones. The international cast features Keisha Castle-Hughes as a straightforward and uncomplaining Mary, used to hard work and Roman tyranny. Oscar Isaac is a warm and protective Joseph. Shohreh Aghdashloo is wonderful as Mary's cousin Elizabeth; in fact, the entire cast is excellent.
The movie is suitable for all ages and I hope it becomes a tradition to show it on television every Christmas. It sticks to the Bible story and is happily lacking in Hollywood razzle-dazzle. The photography is beautiful and it is respectfully directed. Highly recommended.
114 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prayerful meditation on the season of Christmas,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you're looking for a gradiose production in Cecil B. DeMille style, this film is not the one for you. But, if you want a sense of the mystery and beauty... the true meaning of Christmas, you will find this film everything your heart could desire. Throughout, the writers and director did everything possible to be in conformity with the history and theology of the birth of Christ, so that no mainstream Christian will find anything contrary to the scriptural account. While there are moments (like the slaughter of the infants and the birth of John the Baptist) which may not be suitable to little children, I highly recommend this film for family viewing. With a little sensitive explanation, most kids 12 and up should have no difficulties.
As for the performances, they are excellent (with, perhaps, the single exception of the Archangel Gabriel, whom I found a bit distracting)! Throughout, you get the sense of really getting to know the principle characters of the nativity narratives... what they might have been thinking, how they may have felt. The film provides unique perspectives that most never take the time to think through, and those perspectives bring the story to life. Again, if you have problems with films that are not packed with motion and non-stop action, you probably won't make it through this one. If you enjoy deep thought and prayer, on the other hand, this film will more than satisfy. I love it and I'm buying multiple copies for all of my friends that missed it in the theaters.
Note: After reading a few other comments from others, I wanted to add a brief post-script regarding the scriptural accuracy of the film. There are a few trivial differences from scripture such as the Magi coming to the manger on the night of the birth and not arriving at "the house" some time later. But, let's be reasonable. You DO have to allow for the time constraints of the movie and permit a couple times where the story is "condensed" (such as in this moment) in order to keep the story line moving. However, you will find that, where these liberties are taken, it has no impact on the story and the message of the bible. I know my scriptures well and I had no problems with this movie. I would hope that this movie would become a tradition for every Christian household during the Christmas season so that Christmas would once again become that season of grace... of quiet and humility... of hiddenness and charity... just as it was meant to be (instead of plastic trees, loud noise, pushing and shoving at the malls, runaway commercialism, etc.) Perhaps, if this movie hasn't made the kind of money that sick comedies or blood-and-gore action movies usually draw, it's a good sign. Maybe it will tell us that this movie brings to us precisely the kind of counter-cultural message that the world needs to hear... a message "rejected" that is the very cornerstone of Christian belief.
132 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Human Side of the Nativity,
While any Christian would like this movie, what was particularly moving for me was how it depicted the relationship between Mary and Joseph. All the difficulties they overcame, from public scorn to doubting the future, and wondering why they were put in the position they were in. Their relationship is loving, yet reverent for their bigger assignment. They are a team on a journey. So many times I wondered what the two might have said to one another, and the two people who play the roles are uniquely suited for them and they pull the whole thing off with splendor. This is a must-have for any Christian family during the holidays, and a wonderful story to show youngsters as they grow up. Certainly it's the best-ever depiction of the nativity that I have seen and probably ever will see.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Christmas Story on the Silver Screen,
This is a beautiful depiction of how the birth of the Son of God happened. We get to see Joseph and Mary as people of character who really want to live righteously for the Lord. We see the godly and discerning Elizabeth as she counsels Mary on how to handle these unique circumstances.
I have always wondered how Mary broke the news to Joseph and her family about her divine pregnancy. How do you explain something like that? This movie gives a very realistic picture of how that news would have been initially received.
After Joseph's dream reveals to him that Mary's pregnancy is from the Lord, he goes to her and says "I believe you! I believe you! You shall call His name Jesus!" It is a touching scene!
Next, you have the long 100 mile journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. The baby Jesus is born in a cave in Bethlehem, though a good case can be made that the manger he was placed in was in the part of a house occupied by animals than a cave per se.
Also, the Magi (who are the funniest people in the film) are portrayed as coming to the cave the same night the shepherds are there, though scholars have suggested that the visit of the Magi in Matthew 2 may have been a few months later.
But I found the movie to be deeply satisfying, and it made me worship Jesus again as our Savior and Newborn King! All praise and glory and honor be to the Lord Jesus Christ!
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and surprisingly moving look at the story of Jesus' birth,
When you're talking about film adaptations of the story of Christ's birth, the old rubric "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" just does not apply. That is especially the case with The Nativity Story, a truly wonderful film that conveys great spiritual power, even as it brings home the humanity of Mary and Joseph to a degree few of its predecessors ever even attempted. Keisha Castle-Hughes is wonderful as young Mary, but I tend to look upon this film as Joseph's story, and Oscar Isaac is more than up to the task of bringing this humble carpenter to vivid life.
The Nativity Story basically tells the story of Mary and Joseph from the time Mary is betrothed and then finds out she is to give birth to God's Son up through the time of Jesus' birth and the family's evacuation to Egypt. It does an exceptional job of humanizing Mary and Joseph. At 14, Mary is on the brink of womanhood, and early on we are treated with several moments showing us a glimpse of the normal child she was. Her sudden betrothal to Joseph is not something she welcomes, but we see it as a reality of family survival in those troubled times under the double domination of Herod and Rome. When the angel appears to her, she accepts the good news he brings - yet she doesn't completely believe it until she finds her much older cousin Elizabeth carrying the child who would be Jesus' messenger. Her most trying time comes when she returns home. A lot of adaptations tend to gloss over this part. Put yourself in her place, though - she's a 14-year-old girl, betrothed to a good man, who returns home with a child she claims to have been miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit. Her story was even less plausible back then than it would be today. Suddenly, she is a pariah of sorts, looked down upon by all who know her, her very future very much in doubt.
The thing I loved most about this film is the depth of its portrayal of Joseph. All too often, Joseph gets short shrift in the story of Christ's birth, but this film has one of the best characterizations of Joseph I've ever seen. Obviously mortified by Mary's pregnancy, he refuses to accuse her (thus very probably saving her life). Even after he is visited by an angel and told that Mary is indeed carrying the Son of God, it takes a lot of courage for him to take Mary as his wife and to claim a child that is not his. On the long and hard road to Bethlehem, we see many small yet all-encompassing examples of his sacrifice for Mary and the Child. After their arrival and frantic effort to find a room, it is Joseph who delivers the child himself. The bond that grows between he and Mary is one of this film's many great strengths.
The portrayal of the three Wise Men from the East is especially interesting, as they sometimes serve up a few bits of comic relief. One of them, for example, is less than enthused about actually traveling to Judea to find the child whose birth they have predicted based upon their study of the stars (with the star of Bethlehem being attributed to the rare convergence of three heavenly bodies). It really was a hard journey, requiring several months of travel across deserts and mountains. By conveying their journey basically in its entirety, this film produced in me a new level of respect for these men and their significance in the story of Jesus' birth.
The final half hour of the film pretty much blew me away. The light of the Star shining down on the manger, the depiction of the shepherds, the arrival of the Magi - it all really brings home the significance of this newborn baby. As if that isn't enough, the story also features some subtle and profound foreshadowing of later events in Jesus' life. For Christians, the film is truly a blessing, but even nonbelievers should appreciate the poignancy of the story, the fine acting, and the excellent cinematography - and everyone should welcome the opportunity to glance into the rearview mirror of time and get a sense of life as it was just over two thousand years ago.
55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be prepared to go DEEP ...,
The trailer made me cry, but the movie (dare I say it?) was a touch (yawn) BORING ...
Which is not to say that I didn't like it (because I did -- hello? 5 stars!), but I think the plodding pace of the movie really drove home the fact that this "story" was NOT a "Bible story" to the people who were actually involved. It was real life. Every day life. And it really happened. To ordinary people. And not within the space of 2 hours, either. They actually had to live this stuff out -- day by day by grueling day. And so I really appreciated how the movie gets that idea across withOUT the usual Hollywood pyrotechnics, FX & swelling orchestral music score ...
I also like the way the movie weaves all the many & various threads of all the many & various lives together in a way that really makes sense -- which is a picture that's hard for most people to get, no matter how many times they've read the Biblical accounts. So, in that sense, the movie really does succeed in bringing the nativity story to life in a way that I've never seen done before.
And seeing the little "baby Jesus" being lifted up did make me cry, because it made me come to terms with the fact that -- at one time -- He was just that little, just that vulnerable, just that in need of someone to take care of Him & -- WOW -- can you imagine the awesome responsibility? And (although the movie didn't come right out & say it) the Magi's expensive gifts did make Mary/Joseph/Jesus' flight to Egypt possible & was a powerful reminder to me of how God STILL provides for us when we're in desperate need ...
And so the movie does work on many different levels & probably needs to be seen a few times in order to fully appreciate the numerous nuances. They need to make more movies like this!
NOTE: IF YOU FOUND THIS REVIEW HELPFUL, THEN PLEASE GO & GIVE MY "THE LAST MIMZY" REVIEW A VOTE, BECAUSE IT IS CURRENTLY BEING SLAMMED BY FOLKS WHO THINK IT IS WRONG TO WRITE A MOVIE REVIEW FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE. AND, IF YOU'RE REALLY FEELING GENEROUS, THEN PLEASE ALSO VOTE FOR MY "DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS," "UNACCOMPANIED MINORS," "APOCALYPTO" & "WE ARE MARSHALL" REVIEWS. (THINK OF IT AS A "RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS" ;) THANK YOU! & LOTS OF HUGS & BLESSINGS TO ALL MY BROTHERS & SISTERS IN CHRIST <><
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet story of the Birth of Christ,
I liked the approach. The story focuses primarily on the relationship between Joseph and Mary as they learn to deal with being the father and mother of the Son of God. The best part of the movie is the reactions of the Wisemen who after much deliberation and astronomical calculation made a bold and audacious decision to embark on a long journey to follow a star that would shine upon the birth of the messiah. As they present their gifts, watch their facial expressions as they realize they are standing in the presence of the King of Kings, Savior of all mankind. It pretty much sums up the very essence of Christ birth.
A great movie not to be missed.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Devotion,
What a beautiful movie. My wife and I went to see it last night and had a wonderful conversation afterwards about our favorite moments and areas that could have been improved upon. While the movie isn't perfect, all the little mistakes are easily forgiven. It does move along slowly, but there are moments of such austere simplicity it is worth it. We held hands a lot during this movie. It is a very intimate movie. Because the story of the film is so integral to who we are, seeing it portrayed was deeply moving. Not very many movies move one's soul, so I have to really commend this movie for having that effect on me.
Critics who are belittling this movie for being too slowly paced or not inventive enough just don't get it. This is our FAITH! It is something so very deeply personal to us, and it is a thing of beauty to see it so faithfully presented! It is great to have a movie to watch about our religion that wasn't made 2 or more decades ago and does not have cheesy special effects or hammy acting. Watching this film helps you to meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation, to enter more deeply and personally into the mystery. It is a devotion.
I imagine that people of other faiths could certainly appreciate the movie as well as gain insights into Christianity, but that they would leave theatres just thinking the movie was OK. And that is OK. I don't expect everyone to love this movie. There are a lot of Christians out here, so I'm thankful that Catherine Hardwicke and Mike Rich crafted a movie to uplift us.
I'd like to finish by sharing some reflections my wife and I shared last night about our favorite moments. If you haven't seen the film yet, you might wish to stop reading here.
The casting and the performances deserve to be singled out. I have fallen even more in love with Shoreh Aghdashloo. The moment her Elizabeth devoutly exclaims "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" we knew the movie was in good hands. I loved her relationship with Mary as a caring, spiritual aunt. Oscar Isaac as Joseph was excellent- a strong masculine example of service and care, literally leading his family. I loved when he and Mary are discussing their fears of being parents. When we saw Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider, we hoped Hollywood would continue to find good roles for her. Her Mary is not flashy or bold, she is humble. What a daring choice for her to play Mary as she actually would have been-humble! Fantastic work. When she asked the shepherd, "What is your gift?" we both felt like she was asking us as well. We also appreciated that they captured what a risk it was for Mary to say, "Let it be done unto me according to your word."
The birth of John the Baptist was hilarious-I actually could not prevent myself for laughing out loud for a good 30 seconds. That baby is HUGE! He's bigger than my 7 month old son! No wonder Elizabeth was screaming so much! But the birth of Christ was very tender; my eyes started to tear up. We thought they did an excellent job of conveying that God became man. I loved when Joseph held his foster son up and you see his little bottom. God became man with a little bottom! It was a point of profound joyful realization for me. I know that sounds silly, but I'm saying it anyway.
If you're still reading, it really is a beautiful story, very well made. I think I have used the word beautiful 20 times. I highly encourage Christian families to try to support this movie and share with your children what this season is really all about. Let us pass the faith on to the next generation.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Compelling,
I had expected to be bored, but found this film illuminating and quietly compelling. For the most part, the casting is good - Mary, Joseph, Herod. It's interesting to hear their accented readings, especially Gabriel's, even if of course they should be speaking Aramaic (and Farsi, for the wise men). I'm not sure of the astronomical accuracy regarding the Star - see BethlehemStar for a different view. And there are some additions to the story, most notably Mary's rejection of Joseph, but it makes for some development in the story, and is mostly benign. I'd have made the Magi's caravan a little more substantial for such a journey.
The slaughter of the 2-and-unders is not left out. There is no heavenly choir, though - I'd have liked to have seen how they handled that (well, I guess they did, by omitting it). The visual effects, such as the Temple, are good, except for some blemished castle/city walls - I'd think it unlikely that Herod would have allowed that.
I'd give it 3.5 stars.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low Budget But Good,
In the village of Nazareth, the young woman Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is a daughter in a struggling family. They barely make enough to eat and pay the taxes when the Roman soldiers come through town. That's why when Joseph the carpenter (Oscar Isaac) proposes a marriage with Mary, her father quickly accepts. While she is not happy with the arranged marriage, her life gets much more complicated when the Angel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) appears and tells her she will bear the Messiah.
Meanwhile, three Magi are studying the night sky. As they see three stars coming together, they conclude that prophecy is being fulfilled and a great king is being born. They set out to find this child. And King Herod (Ciaran Hinds) continues his paranoia over his thrown. The same prophecies worry him. Is there a new threat to his throne?
When a movie tells a familiar story, it faces an uphill battle. It must find a way to draw the viewer into the events even though they know the outcome. This movie almost succeeded for me. I was pulled in most of the time watching these characters from the Biblical story brought to life. The friends I saw it with loved it and were deeply moved by it. At times, however, I found the low budget a bit of a distraction.
The producers of the film try to present the story with as little flash as possible. Since the story is set 2000 years ago, it mostly works. I did spot the occasional matte painting in the background, but was willing to forgive this "low tech" approach. What did bother me were scenes at the end that needed extras like the empty town of Bethlehem and the missing Angel chorus.
There was much to enjoy about the movie, however. The costumes and sets were wonderful. Also accurate was the depiction of the times in which the story takes place. We often forget the harsh treatment from the Romans and the consequences for both Mary and Joseph because of her pregnancy.
The performances are also great. Herod's mental illness comes through, yet he is very menacing. The Magi are lots of fun and provide some light moments. Absolutely perfect are Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isaac as Mary and Joseph. They are likable, have good chemistry, and expertly show their characters' struggles.
The ending of the movie is very moving as the shepherds and Magi arrive to pay tribute to Jesus. And I'll grant the producers artistic license on this. I doubt they were there at the same time, but it makes for a better movie.
A bigger budget could have made this a better movie. Still, it is good because it shows the human elements and consequences we tend to gloss over in our annual Christmas celebrations.
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The Nativity Story [Blu-ray] by Catherine Hardwicke (Blu-ray - 2013)