My friend and I went to the movies yesterday. Twice, with lunch in between. This is about the first movie. We saw the first showing for the day of The Nativity Story.
I loved it. I cried at least twice.
Most likely for storytelling purposes, the movie took the side of the Wise Men debate that puts them at the stable shortly after the birth of baby Jesus, rather than at Mary and Joseph's house one or two years later. That's the only controversial decision I noticed.
The acting was strong, and most of the actors are people you've either never heard of or have seen here and there but don't quite remember them. Mary is played by Keisha Castle-Hughes, a sixteen-year-old from Down Under, and Joseph by Oscar Isaac, a stage actor who is only beginning his film career.
Ciarán Hinds (the Russian president in Sum of All Fears) was great as a troubled King Herod casting about for the identity of the new King who prophecy said would overthrow him. And it was a little disconcerting seeing Dr. Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (Alexander Siddig) as the angel Gabriel.
The beauty of this movie is that it takes the Nativity from countlessly retold story to an exploration of what the events would have been like in the lives of real people. Were Mary and Joseph in love with each other when they were betrothed? How did her family and the neighbors--and Joseph--react to the evidence of her pregnancy? What was the journey like as they travelled the 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem? The answers are believable, and sometimes heartbreaking.
Go see this movie. Send a message to Hollywood with your feet and your wallet that this is the kind of movie you've been waiting for. See it today, if you possibly can, since opening weekend is the most important. But when you get to your seat, forget about the statement to Hollywood. Sit back and watch it for yourself.