For Christ’s Sake

Keisha Castle-Hughes as ‘Mary’ in “The Nativity Story”The Nativity Story (2006) doesn’t really satisfy as a film in its own right, and I’m not sure anyone would want to watch it at any other time of the year… but it does do an admirable job of putting sympathetic human faces on Biblical characters, and rooting the oft-told tale in a realistic milieu. The film’s biggest asset is the nascent relationship between Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a teenage farm-girl who gets knocked up by God, and her kind-hearted fiancé, Joseph (Oscar Isaac), who accepts the whole “miraculous conception” deal with remarkable grace. His unquestioning belief in the purity of his betrothed, and the many sacrifices he makes to protect her and the unborn-child alike, were genuinely moving… and the pair’s heartfelt performances actually made me invest in the characters’ precarious situation, despite knowing full well how it would turn out in the end. I also appreciated the occasional comic relief provided by The Three Wise Men (one of whom was played by Nadim Sawalha… father of Julia and Nadia!).

Keisha Castle-Hughes as ‘Mary’ in “The Nativity Story”Of course, it’s pointless to pick holes in the plot, considering how well-established the source material is… but I have always wondered about the logic behind that whole “everyone must return to their ancestral hometown for a census” dictate… which seems even more ridiculous here, when you see how hard everyone had to work to pay their taxes. Why would the money-crazy Romans make everyone down tools for days/weeks/months to go wandering haphazardly around the countryside, and maybe even die or get injured en route, just so they could take a head-count? That’s a waste of resources, dammit! According to what I’ve read, there’s no historical evidence to suggest that this implausible mass pilgrimage ever took place… but it does make for a more dramatic story, I guess. I also don’t understand why the filmmakers chose to begin with a brief scene of King Herod and his son obliquely discussing the impending “Massacre of the Innocent” (before flashing back to tell Mary and Joseph’s story), when the only people who’ll understand what they’re referring to will already know what’s coming, and therefore won’t find it a particularly compelling cliff-hanger hook… especially since this is a PG-rated film, so the infanticide-spree consists of little more than a few bloodless, fleeting shots of soldiers kicking down doors and women shrieking. Meh.

Still, petty quibbles aside, as a former pupil of several churchy schools, I appreciate the way this film combines Religious Education with actual entertainment value. In my experience, that’s a pretty rare blessing…

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action.
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