The usual complaint about religious movies is that they’re shallow, poorly made and sloppily sentimental. None of that is true of The Young Messiah, opening this weekend in time for Easter. Directed by my friend Cyrus Nowrasteh and written by Cyrus and his wife Betsey, the picture is based on Anne Rice’s novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, and deals with the so-called “lost years” of Jesus’s childhood.
Some may object to artists imagining a part of Christ’s life that isn’t explicitly spelled out in the Bible. Cyrus is no stranger to controversy. He made the Stoning of Soraya M, which depicted the barbaric treatment of women in an Islamic village. And he wrote The Path to 9/11, the popular TV mini-series which so offended the Clintons with its honesty, they managed to pressure their Hollywood pals into barring its release on DVD.
Here, though, he approaches his subject with both reverence and tenderness. The film is human and alive in its depiction of ordinary people swept up into the most extraordinary event of all time. The question Joseph asks in the trailer — “How do we explain God to his own son?” — hints at the the film’s complex theme, which more fully stated would be, “How did human life contain something so much greater than itself?”
Thoughtful, tender and touching, The Young Messiah is a fine way to put yourself in the mood for Easter. I wish there were more films that dealt with Christian themes with so much humanity and gravity.