The Young Messiah

Religious views may vary, but everyone could agree on how boring The Young Messiah is.  The film walks and talks, talks and walks, and occasionally stops for characters to exchange exposition or inspiration.  The Young Messiah made me restless in ways few movies have.

The problems with The Young Messiah don’t involve its religious subject matter nor the Anne Rice novel the film is loosely adapted from.  Much like February’s Risen, the film is more interested in a gripping story rather than a manipulative hidden agenda.  The Young Messiah didn’t work for me because it lacks a motivated filmmaker.  Director Cyrus Nowrasteh hasn’t set a proper balance between substance and style, and delivers a film so dependant on droning dialogue that he forgets the visual medium he’s working with.

The Young Messiah is a very flat film with duelling plots, inattentive reactions, and a dull colour palette.  As a filmmaker, Nowrasteh had to figure out how to equip the film with energy despite these challenges.  I instantly think of 127 Hours and how Danny Boyle was able to use his cache of stylistic choices to draw his audience into James Franco’s one-man-show.  Mind you, Boyle tipped the scale in the opposite direction by adding too much flare, but the film’s energy had movie goers mesmerized.  The most energy that takes place in The Young Messiah is when Nowrasteh’s locked-off cameras change from a two-shot to a medium close-up.

The film also depends on its actors to distract attention away from visual aesthetics;  another unwise decision since it looks as if the performers are searching for answers themselves.  Since the story is essentially a coming-of-age story about a youthful Jesus (played by Adam Greaves-Neal) trying to figure out why he inherits inexplicable fate-controlling powers, Greaves-Neal’s stoic stares work.  Other times, the supporting actors have a hard time hiding their empty thoughts.  Surprisingly, Sean Bean (as the prosecuting Roman centurion Severus) is the most obvious;  he appears to be internally kicking himself for taking on such a worn out role.  And then you have Christian McKay, a fantastic actor who goes all in with the trifling and robust relief the screenplay provides – he walks away slightly scalded.

The Young Messiah cashes in on Easter audiences with a sensationalized concept to only take up space and coast on fumes.  It serves as a clashing disappointment in the shadow of recent biblical fare (The Masked Saint, Risen).


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