A Review by Tom Condon,
(St. Martin Province)
Synopsis: The two-year period of Mary
and Joseph's life, which culminates in their leaving Nazareth and
journeying 100 miles to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.
a point well into Mary and Joseph’s difficult journey from
Nazareth to Jerusalem, the couple stops by a river to rest. Joseph
falls asleep. Carefully and tenderly, Mary removes Joseph’s
sandals and begins to wash his tired, sore, feet. It’s a
moment of great beauty, tenderness, and symbolic meaning. Scenes
like these make The Nativity Story well worth seeing.
The Nativity Story does a good job of transporting the viewer
into the world of First Century Palestine. Mary is a young girl
living in the small village of Nazareth, doing the things that
young girls do: helping with chores, watching the younger children,
laughing and dreaming of her life would be like. One day the angel
Gabriel appears to her. In this film, Gabriel appears like a young
man, not an angel with wings. We know Mary’s response which
changes her life, and the history of the world. The Nativity Story
highlights the courage of Mary and Joseph after saying “yes”
to God. Mary could have been stoned for adultery. Joseph is tainted
by his association with Mary. Townspeople look the other way when
the couple walk by, or whisper behind their backs. As different
as times were then and now, some things about small town life
remain the same.
travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth (played by the wonderful
Iranian actress Shoreh Aghdashloo). Amidst so much misunderstanding
and suspicion, Elizabeth is the only one who understands her.
Together they share their joy. After Elizabeth gives birth to
John, Mary makes the trip back to Nazareth.
Blending Luke and Matthew’s gospels, director Catherine
Hardwicke brings together the shepherds and wise men. The wise
men play a substantial role. They are played for comic relief
as they discover the star and make their way toward Bethlehem.
Mary is well played by the young New Zealander Keisha Castle-Hughes,
and Joseph by newcomer Oscar Isaac. Their growing love for each
other as they make their way toward Bethlehem is one of the most
touching things about the film.
The film also brings to light the fact that Israel was an occupied
country. Roman soldiers come and go at will, taking whatever and
whomever they wish. Herod is a paranoid tyrant, suspecting everyone
The lovely musical score is a great asset, blending the music
of familiar Advent and Christmas hymns. At the very beginning
of the film, we hear the familiar melody of “O Come, O Come
Emanuel.” At the end of the movie, we hear “Silent
Night.” These are subtle, yet very effective, touches.
I think that The Nativity Story will become a classic. After
this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find it in
just about every Christian school and church library. It will
be treasured for many years to come for its gentle, yet realistic
telling of this timeless story.
Tom Condon, OP
Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I -- general
patronage. The MPAA rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
After this year, I wouldn’t be
at all sur-prised to find it in just about every Christian school
and church library.