What was Jesus like as a child?
That's the question The Young Messiah
endeavors to offer a speculative answer for by way of a fictionalized dramatic narrative.
Scripture offers little clarification in this area, so the movie has a lot of room to write is own arc. That said, the film's suggestion that the child Jesus had to learn for himself just who he was over time is bound to draw controversy. However, if you're willing to accept this premise as at least worthy of consideration enough for two hours (and if you don't mind the child Jesus sounding like he stepped off the streets of London), this movie is a gem of a family film.
Young actor Adam Greaves-Neal is strong and appropriately innocent as a child Jesus, balancing a childlike vulnerability with the foreshadowing of messianic strength. The adult cast is also strong, with Sean Bean as the centurion dispatched to eliminate Jesus serving as a notable standout. As one of the film's exclusively fictionalized characters, he has a freer arc that allows for more unpredictability, even if it's clear where his character is ultimately going. Bean captures effectively the conflicting emotions in a subtle but effective performance. All of the Biblical and historical players who do make an appearance are treated to effective and human characterizations and subtle nuances that really enhance an appreciation for the dynamic Christ might've grown up in.
Overall, I came away pleased with the viewing experience of this film. Families have found another gem to add to their annual viewing traditions. With so many "Jesus movies" around with a myriad of opinions on which is best, The Young Messiah
offers a fresh angle to examine our Lord and Savior from. While it doesn't pretend to be anything other than speculative, it can still serve to enrich our understanding and, at minimum, provoke some interesting discussion about what Jesus was like as a child. While I could nitpick a few details that have room for improvement, these are insignificant compared to everything the movie gets right.
The Bottom Line:
By foreshadowing future Scriptural moments and wielding an overall reverence for the people at the heart of our faith, The Young Messiah
triumphs as one of the standout faith movies of recent years.