The Young Messiah
|The Young Messiah|
|Directed by||Cyrus Nowrasteh|
|Based on||Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt|
by Anne Rice
|Music by||John Debney|
|Edited by||Geoffrey Rowland|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Box office||$7.3 million|
The Young Messiah is a 2016 American biblical drama film directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh and co-written by Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh and Nowrasteh, based on the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice. The film stars Adam Greaves-Neal, Sean Bean, David Bradley, Lee Boardman, Jonathan Bailey, and David Burke. The film revolves around a fictional interpretation of a seven-year-old Jesus, who tries to discover the truth about his life when he returns to Nazareth from Egypt.
Nowrasteh acquired the film rights in 2011, and wrote the script along with his wife Betsy Giffen. Chris Columbus developed the film through his 1492 Pictures banner and helped the film financing by Ocean Blue Entertainment. FilmDistrict acquired the US distribution rights in 2013, which were later transferred to Focus Features in 2014. Filming began on September 15, 2014, in Matera and Rome, Italy.
Although the film was known throughout production as Christ the Lord, Focus Features announced on September 1, 2015 that it would now be called The Young Messiah. Nowrasteh said in a press release, "This new title better conveys how our film seeks to present a realistic portrait of Jesus as a child both grounded in faith and consistent with the adult Jesus revealed in the Bible."
The film was released on March 11, 2016, by Focus Features. Reviews were mixed, and the film proved to be a box office bomb, grossing only $7 million against a budget of $18.5 million.
At the age of 7, when Jesus returns from Egypt to his home in Nazareth with his family, he discovers the truth about his life. He realizes he is the Son of God, sent by God, to be the savior of humanity.
Jesus plays in Alexandria with his cousins when one of the local boys, Eliezer, beats Jesus and then turns to his female cousin. Lucifer throws an apple to the bully Eliezer and he falls to his death. Then Lucifer turns the crowd against the young boy Jesus and they gather around accusing him of cursing Eliezer. His mother saves him from the mob but as he and his cousins hide in the house they ask the young Jesus to do to Eliezer what he did to the young bird.
Jesus sneaks out of the house and into Eliezer's home, where preparations are being made for his disemboweling and burial. When he raises Eliezer from the dead, the boy promptly resumes beating Jesus. Eliezer's parents ask Joseph, Jesus and Mary to leave Alexandria saying "7 years is more than enough".
Joseph tells Mary, uncle Cleopas and his extended family that he had a dream and it is time to return to Israel because King Herod the Great is dead. Mary insists on returning to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem. The family departs for Israel.
On the road to Israel, Jesus and his family encounter an increasingly unwell Cleopas coughing and though Mrs. Cleopas asks Jesus to heal him, Jesus says he cannot because he has been asked not to. As the family rests Jesus runs off to play and walks straight into an ambush with rebellious Jews waiting for a passing Roman cavalry. One of the rebels tries to turn away the boy Jesus and when the Romans become suspicious and the attack commences the rebel pushes away the young Jesus from harm's way and sacrifices his own life. One of the Centurions rushes to strike down Jesus as he kneels next to the fallen rebel. Before he is able to the lead Centurion, Severus, rushes forward & blocks the strike and angrily pushes his soldier away just as Joseph and Mary rush to the scene. They convince Severus that they were just passing through, and he allows them to leave.
When Jesus returns with his family, he finds Cleopas increasingly delirious and raving by the river Jordan. Jesus cannot resist and moves to heal his uncle Cleopas. As he heals his uncle, the news spreads and reaches the new Jewish King, Herod Archelaus, Herod the Great's son, summons his Roman Centurion, who is revealed to be Severus. It is quickly shown that Severus despises Herod and that Herod is going mad as he attacks imaginary snakes. Herod orders Severus to hunt down the boy healer and execute him. Herold then taunts him by telling him that his task should be as easy as Bethlehem. Severus reluctantly agrees, but secretly shows distress at the mention of Bethlehem.
Jesus and the family run into a man raping a lady by the roadside. The lady knifes the attacker and kills him. Joseph and Uncle Cleopas bury the dead attacker and the victim joins the family on their road to Nazareth. On the way to Nazareth Jesus and the holy family encounter crucifixions of Jewish rebels.
Upon arrival at their family home in Nazareth the Roman soldiers arrive and accuse them of banditry and rebellion. Grandmother Sarah arrives and shares sweet cakes and good wine to give to the soldiers. The soldiers are won over by the hospitality and spare Joseph and the extended clan.
Severus returns to Herod Archelaus in the middle of a belly dancing entertainment. He informs Severus that he just crucified a man who told him about the return of Jesus. The crucified informant tells Severus of the general direction and informs him of a camel he gave to the boy as a gift. Severus performs a mercy kill on the informant in order to end his suffering.
The child Jesus is taken to the rabbi for schooling. He amazes them with his wisdom and knowledge and they accept him but Jesus faints on the way back. Lucifer torments Jesus as he lies unwell and tells him that his little miracles will mean nothing. However, Jesus is able to frighten Lucifer by revealing that Lucifer is actually afraid of him as he doesn't know who Jesus really is or just how powerful he is.
Jesus is restored to health and he asks to visit Jerusalem for Passover. The centurions track Jesus to Sarah's house in Nazareth but they have already departed for Jerusalem. The soldiers extract information about the boy's name. The soldiers intercept the travelers on the road but the family departs from the road and hides in the caves.
Jesus departs from the cave in the middle of the night for Jerusalem all by himself asking God for guidance and safety. Jesus enters Jerusalem, his parents follow looking for him. Jesus is given some coins by well meaning pilgrims and he uses the coins to save a sacrificial dove and sets it free. Jesus finds a blind rabbi and asks about what happened 7 years ago in Bethlehem. As the rabbi tells him about the slaughter that happened, Jesus sees the scene unfold in his mind. It is revealed that Severus was the one who led the slaughter. However, he did not do it willingly. Lucifer guides the Centurions to the boy by the rabbi. The rabbi is healed by the young Jesus.
Severus corners Jesus and the people in the temple gather around Jesus claiming him to be the boy who healed the Rabbi. However, upon seeing Jesus, Severus is shocked to realize that he is the very boy he saved in the valley. Jesus reveals that he knows about Severus actions at Bethlehem, and how he has been plagued with guilt ever since. Jesus reminds Severus that he already saved his life once and that now he has a choice to make. After a tense moment, Severus lowers his sword and tells his men that their job is done here. Jesus gives him a knowing smile before turning around and embracing his family.
Severus returns to falsely report to Herod Archelaus that the young Jesus was murdered by him. At first Herod gleefully celebrates but then starts screaming & raving about snakes in his bed. As he continues to rave, Severus calmly walks out of the bedchamber. As he walks away he smiles & places his hand on the toy camel that is he now has attached to his belt.
Mary tells Jesus that he is in fact the son of God and that his father has a plan for him. The film ends with Jesus on a field lifting his arms to the sky as he addresses his father.
- Adam Greaves-Neal as Jesus
- Sean Bean as Severus
- David Bradley as an old Rabbi
- Lee Boardman as a Roman squad leader
- Jonathan Bailey as Herod
- David Burke as a blind Rabbi
- Rory Keenan as Lucifer
- Isabelle Adriani as Seleni
- Vincent Walsh as Joseph
- Agni Scott as Miriam
- Sara Lazzaro as Mary
- Paul Ireland as Optio
- Jarreth J. Merz as Aaron, Eliezer's father
- Dorotea Mercuri as Eliezer's mother
- Christian McKay as Cleopas
- Jane Lapotaire as Sarah
- Clive Russell as Weer
- Niccolò Senni as Pilgrim
According to director Cyrus Nowrasteh, James and Salome, referred in the Bible as Jesus' brother and sister, are portrayed as his cousins. Nowrasteh said that the idea is that they had "sort of been adopted... they all referred to one another as brother and sister in those times." The filmmakers had cross-denominational support for the film's production, and received positive feedback from evangelicals and Catholics alike. Nowrasteh's wife Betsy helped rewrite two scenes taken from the apocryphal "Infancy Gospel of Thomas" in order to bring them more into line with the Gospels.
The film was previously set for March 23, 2016, release, but on January 15, 2015, Focus Features moved the release up to March 11, 2016. On December 22, 2015, a sneak peek video clip was released on the movie's website. The film met the qualification criteria for the 89th Academy Awards.
On June 21, 2013, it was announced that FilmDistrict had acquired the US distribution rights to the film and planned to release the film in March 2015. The film was then being developed and financed by Rise Entertainment, under a five-year deal inked between Rise and 1492 Pictures. 1492 Pictures, Hyde Park Entertainment, CJ Entertainment, and Ocean Blue Entertainment would produce the film, and Hyde Park would handle the international sales for the film. Producers would be Columbus, Barnathan, and Radcliffe for 1492, Tracy K. Price for Ocean Blue, Ashok Amritraj for Hyde Park, and Mark W. Shaw for CJ.
On May 16, 2014, it was reported again that Ocean Blue would finance the film along with CJ, Echo Lake Productions, and Ingenious Media, while 1492 Pictures would produce the film along with Ocean Blue, CJ, Hyde Park and Ingenious. Focus Features acquired the US rights from FilmDistrict, and set the film to begin production in September 2014.
In the United States and Canada, the film opened on March 11, 2016 alongside 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Brothers Grimbsy and The Perfect Match. It was originally projected to gross $7–8 million in its opening weekend, however after grossing just $1.4 million on its opening day, estimates were lowered to $3–4 million. It ended up grossing $3.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing 7th at the box office.
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The film has gathered mixed critical responses. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 47%, based on 35 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10. On Metacritic the film has a score of 33 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.
Steven D. Greydanus reviewed The Young Messiah for the National Catholic Register, saying it was smartly adapted by Cyrus and Betsy Nowrasteh. Greydanus said he could imagine watching the film with a mixed group of people of faith and no faith while holding everyone's interest. He says this project could have turned into "the greatest imaginable act of authorial hubris and irrelevance", except that the filmmakers found an elegant solution in drawing on both the Gospels and the apocryphal Gospels, while reworking all the material to bring it into conformance with right beliefs among Christians. Greydanus says that "The Young Messiah offers an imaginative vision of the most iconic and celebrated family in human history that is both surprising and familiar, warmly human and credible yet also different."
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