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The Young Messiah: Movie Review

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Hollywood's Jesus has taken many forms, from The Greatest Story Ever Told to Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, Mel Gibson's blockbuster The Passion of the Christ to Columbia Pictures' recent Joseph Fiennes-led release, Risen. But, Focus Features' The Young Messiah is the first to concentrate on the Son of God's childhood.

Starring Sean Bean and newcomer Adam Greaves-Neal, The Young Messiah follows seven-year-old Jesus as he and his family return to the Holy Land. Rated PG-13, the Cyrus Nowrasteh-directed project warrants caution for parents of younger kids.


Alexandria, Egypt, is the only home Jesus (Greaves-Neal) has ever known. But, the time has come. A providential dream compels Joseph (Vincent Walsh) to lead his family home – to Nazareth. Upon their return, they find their homeland suffering under Roman rule. Afraid for Jesus' safety, Joseph and Mary (Sara Lazzaro) try to keep his true identity secret. Still rumors of his existence reach the new King Herod (Jonathan Bailey), a mad, paranoid ruler, who sends a centurion named Severus (Bean) to hunt down and kill the boy.


Based on Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, this film adaptation ventures into unknown territory. The Bible is largely silent about what happened during Jesus' childhood, but this fiction feels plausible. Controversy could come from scenes in the movie when Jesus performs miracles even as a child. There's also a moment at the Jordan River that foreshadows his meeting with John the Baptist years later. On the whole, The Young Messiah is respectful of the scripture and offers moviegoers an inspiring glimpse of what may have been.

It's a layered film, touching on universal themes that can speak to all ages. Children get to experience God at a relatable age, when he's discovering his humanity and spirituality. For parents and adults, we see a challenging family dynamic. Sure, it's family at a heightened state, but the same rules apply. Mary and Joseph struggle with keeping Jesus safe from real danger, but also wrestle with how to parent God's Son, what to say when He begins to come with questions about his identity.

At the same time, moviegoers witness the extreme conflict that filled Jesus' life, even at an early age. King Herod and Severus fill the role of antagonists, but we're also introduced to an arresting darkness that follows Jesus throughout the film.

The cast of The Young Messiah complements each other. Young Greaves-Neal brings such a capturing presence to the Christ child and Bean, a palpable drama to his character and the film. Filmed in Italy and sharing the same composer, it's no surprise that the scenic and musical backdrops for the film are reminiscent of The Passion of the Christ. Oscar-nominated composer John Debney's score is transporting.

Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements, The Young Messiah is inappropriate for young children, especially those under the age of 10. Several violent scenes, including crucifixions and the killing of Bethlehem's babies, are enough reason to keep the younger ones at home. Though most of the intense action happens off screen, blood is shed and seen.


The Young Messiah transcends expectation. Nowrasteh's film takes you on an inspirational journey, discovering the innocence and divinity of Jesus – just as He begins to uncover his true identity himself.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's