‘The Young Messiah’ as viewed by local youth

‘The Young Messiah’ as viewed by local youth
Adam Greaves-Neal stars in a scene from the movie “The Young Messiah.” CNS photo/Focus

Adam Greaves-Neal stars in a scene from the movie “The Young Messiah.”
CNS photo/Focus

WASHINGTON TOWNSIP — Anthony Scafidi, 24, a core team member of the youth group at Blackwood’s Our Lady of Hope Parish, called the movie “incredibly powerful,” while Joachim Cendana, a student at Stockton University and member of its Catholic Campus Ministry, called it “an interesting take on Jesus’ story.”

These two, along with other youth and their parish ministry leaders, had enthusiastic praise for the new film “The Young Messiah.” On Thursday, March 10, at Regal Cross Keys Cinema 12 here, 184 youth and adults took in a private screening of the picture, which depicts the life of Jesus Christ as a 7-year-old boy.

The movie attempts to flesh out a period of time not included in the Scriptures, between the time of Jesus’ birth, and the start of his public ministry.

Adapted from Anne Rice’s 2005 book “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” and directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, “The Young Messiah” sees a young Jesus growing up amidst his parents, Mary and Joseph, and extended family, as they travel from Egypt, to Nazareth, and then to Jerusalem.

Top secular movie critics have not been enthusiastic about the film, but it has garnered some critical praise. The Jesuit journal America, for example, in a March 14 cover story calls “The Young Messiah” a film of “transcendant moments, if not sustained engagement.” It also praises the casting of Adam Greaves-Neal as Jesus, as well as the film’s portrayal of the Holy Family.

Compassionate, curious and prayerful, the young Jesus does recognize that he has special gifts, namely seen in his bringing back to life a bird, and later a bully. He also cures his uncle, Cleopas, of disease. However, he doesn’t quite know or understand what his complete role in humanity is, a role that his parents aren’t eager for him to learn so quickly. Through his laughter, games of tag, and wide-eyed innocence, the audience sees a young Jesus enjoying childhood, yet always asking questions.

Complicating the lives of the Holy Family are King Herod, who desires to find and kill the son of God, and a centurion sent to do Herod’s will; and Satan, a hooded man only seen by Jesus, who is constantly whispering into the ears of others, seeking to weaken the titular character through blame or doubt. His presence, it seems, casts a shadow in every scene of the movie.

Jamie Paffenroth, 16, thought the movie was “really inspiring, to realize how strong Jesus’ faith was. It makes you want to not doubt your own.”

Marianne Exler, Director of Religious Education at Saint Charles Borromeo, brought her “God Squad,” a group of students in grades six through eight. “It’s a great way to get ready for Easter,” she said.

“The Young Messiah” is currently playing in area theaters.

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