The Nativity Story

 
The Bible on the big screen: New take on old tale.
  • Review Date: March 19, 2007
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

No one believes that Mary didn't have sex, so she has to endure their looks, whispers, and even the threat of stoning. In Bethlehem, the couple is turned away as she's ready to give birth. Mary and Joseph hold fast to their faith during difficult times.

Violence

Mary and Joseph endure a harsh trip to Bethlehem, battling sandstorms, treacherous terrain, hunger, thieves, and a snake during a river crossing. Brief scenes of innocents being slaughtered. Mention of Mary being stoned.

Sex

The story revolves around Mary's "immaculate conception." People react harshly to the idea that Mary may have had sex before marriage (her mother hints at rape). Mary and Elizabeth endure painful labor during childbirth.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that most kids probably won't be clamoring to see this serious biblical drama. It includes references to stoning, rape, and the slaughter of innocent people. Mary endures whispers and looks from neighbors (she's pregnant but hasn't had sex -- they wonder how this can be). She and Joseph embark on a difficult trip to Bethlehem, enduring thieves, harsh weather, sandstorms, a perilous river crossing, and a run-in with a snake. The takeaway message (for Christians and non-believers alike) is that hope and faith go a long way toward getting you through life's rough patches.

What's the story?

THE NATIVITY STORY opens with King Herod (Ciaran Hinds) plotting to kill all the male babies in Bethlehem. In a flashback to the previous year, Zechariah (Stanley Townsend) is told by an angelic voice that his aging wife Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo) will bear a son. In Nazareth, Elizabeth's young peasant cousin, Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) -- still practically a child and living under the daily uncertainties of Roman occupation -- is informed by her parents, Anna and Joaquim (Hiam Abbass and Shaun Toub), that she is to marry Joseph (Oscar Isaac), a carpenter a few years her senior. Troubled, Mary retreats to a nearby grove, where the angel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) reveals that she'll give birth to Jesus. Meanwhile, in Persia, the three Magi set out to follow the star westward as Joseph and Mary begin their own difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Once they finally arrive, Jesus is born -- complete with wise men, shepherds, no room at the inn, and just a hint of Hallmark Cardish-ness.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

With very little source material to go on, it's true that most of this movie is speculation. But thoughtful direction by Catherine Hardwicke and a strong screenplay by Mike Rich give viewers a glimpse into Mary and Joseph's emotions. The movie takes us inside the characters' experience -- what they're thinking and how people react to their extraordinary situation.

Castle-Hughes portrays Mary with all the angst you might expect from someone in her situation. It's heart-wrenching to see Mary endure disparaging looks from neighbors, the threat of stoning, and the doubts of her own parents. Mary and Joseph feel woefully inadequate for such enormous responsibility, yet they quietly shoulder their responsibilities with hope and faith. This movie is a little slow in spots, and it's clearly religious. But its message of peace and goodwill will resonate with non-believers as well.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Mary and Joseph react to their extraordinary situation. Even though they had doubts, they didn't shy away from responsibility. Why do people call on faith and hope when times are rough? Also, when someone trustworthy tells you something that seems unbelievable, should you trust them? How realistic do you think the movie's portrayal of biblical times is? How do kids think the director did depicting this timeless story? How do they respond to seeing religion on the big screen? How do our modern values color the story of Mary and Joseph?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 30, 2006
DVD release date:March 20, 2007
Cast:Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Director:Catherine Hardwicke
Studio:New Line
Genre:Drama
Topics:Adventures, History
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some violent content

This review of The Nativity Story was written by

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Parent of a 11 year old Written byEnniferjay August 1, 2009
age 13+
 
While some may love the Nativity Story they have seen in church or school plays, don't be fooled by this one - it is designed to be as "biblically accurate" as possible. That means plenty of poverty, despair, and stories about Mary being sold into slavery, etc. We sat down to watch this with our 8-and-12-year-old daughters, and given that my wife is a minister, we thought all would be OK...until we hit the completely unnecessary circumcision scene. After that, we turned it off - and I had a traumatized 8-and-12-year-old to calm down! Bottom line, I don't think this is for kids. Adults, yes, and Teens who can take it - but not for kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Adult Written bymoregun April 9, 2008
Adult Written byoaklandgal83 April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

dinner time talk

We wathed this movie and everybody wanted to talk about it at dinner. Wonderful Understanding al around!!!!

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