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The Nativity Story: film review

Even as King Herod (Ciaran Hinds) is fretting over the prophecy that a new King, a Messiah, will arrive in Judea, the just-betrothed teenage daughter of a Nazareth family, Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is visited by the angel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) and told she will bear a child and it will be the son of God, to be called Jesus. Gabriel has also visited Zechariah (Simon Townsend) and given him the news that his wife Elizabeth (Shoreh Aghdashloo) - though past childbearing age - will also have a son, who will pave the way for Jesus. Joseph eventually accepts Mary's amazing story, and they begin the 100 mile trek to Bethlehem to obey Herod's orders to complete a census. Meanwhile, in the East, three Magi set off for Bethlehem, guided by three bright 'stars' that will align at the auspicious moment.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's hard to imagine a more faithful retelling, in the religious sense, of the stories told in Luke and Matthew's New Testament, surrounding the events leading to the birth of Jesus. This is not necessarily a good thing, though, because the story falls rather flat and is delivered with the earnest but dull weight of a junior school play. Admittedly well performed and in superb locations ... The heavenly choir (at one stage singing Holy Night) provide the sort of backdrop that would not be out of place in a basilica tour, and the heavenly visitations, miraculous pregnancies and such seem oddly matter of fact. If anything, the film throws into sharp relief the simplistic nature of the story, turning this pivotal aspect of Christianity into a lame fairy tale.

But that's just me; I suspect the target audience will love the purity of its story and the complete surrender to its religious touchstones. This is a film intended for families to attend rather as if attending Sunday mass, a little removed from day to day reality. An excellent primer for children being taught the story at Christmas; at least it's relevant.

Luckily the cast is well chosen and manage to remain credible speaking an accented English occasionally interrupted by Hebrew (like at prayer).
Andrew Urban

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