From the desk of The Movie Snob
The Nativity Story (A-). I was discouraged by the first wave of reviews that I saw, but then I saw a couple of favorable reviews and thought I should give The Nativity Story a chance. I’m glad I did. At first, I was a little concerned; the acting seemed a bit overripe, and the sound quality was not so good. But I was quickly drawn into the story, and by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it. The film is generally very faithful to the Bible, and it brings to life the context that we tend to forget when we just look at pretty manger scenes and Christmas cards. In particular, the movie vividly depicts the grinding poverty endured by most of the people in Roman-occupied Israel and the casual cruelty and brutal punishments dished out by the Romans. Some critics have criticized Keisha Castle-Hughes’s portrayal of Mary as wooden or flat, but I thought her performance was appropriate. True, she’s not laughing or even smiling much of the time, but in addition to the harshness of life in ancient Judea she had to face the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy in a culture where that could easily lead to stoning. The fellow who plays Joseph also does a good job of conveying the hurt and shame of his circumstances. (Postscript–that fellow was Oscar Isaac, who would go on to bigger things, like a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.) The manger scene is very nicely done.
I warmly recommend this movie and encourage you to see it. It is properly rated PG because of a few instances of violence — Herod’s slaughter of the innocents is shown in two short scenes of soldiers smashing into houses and women crying, but the film doesn’t actually show any babies getting hacked apart. A couple of times characters come upon the bodies of criminals crucified along the roads, but the film doesn’t dwell on those shots. I would guess this film is appropriate for kids maybe 11 or 12 and up.