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100 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and surprisingly moving look at the story of Jesus' birth
When you're talking about film adaptations of the story of Christ's birth, the old rubric "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" just does not apply. That is especially the case with The Nativity Story, a truly wonderful film that conveys great spiritual power, even as it brings home the humanity of Mary and Joseph to a degree few of its predecessors ever even...
Published on 6 July 2007 by Daniel Jolley

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware: distressing opening scenes for younger viewers
I bought this DVD to watch with my children and I am very glad that I decided to watch it myself first. Buyers should be aware that the opening scenes show the murder of a young boy by soldiers and the kidnapping of young female villagers by soldiers for whom they will 'work to pay for [the fathers' debts]'. Needless to say, it is a distressing start and one that is...
Published 19 days ago by Sarah


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100 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and surprisingly moving look at the story of Jesus' birth, 6 July 2007
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
When you're talking about film adaptations of the story of Christ's birth, the old rubric "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" just does not apply. That is especially the case with The Nativity Story, a truly wonderful film that conveys great spiritual power, even as it brings home the humanity of Mary and Joseph to a degree few of its predecessors ever even attempted. Keisha Castle-Hughes is wonderful as young Mary, but I tend to look upon this film as Joseph's story, and Oscar Isaac is more than up to the task of bringing this humble carpenter to vivid life.

The Nativity Story basically tells the story of Mary and Joseph from the time Mary is betrothed and then finds out she is to give birth to God's Son up through the time of Jesus' birth and the family's evacuation to Egypt. It does an exceptional job of humanizing Mary and Joseph. At 14, Mary is on the brink of womanhood, and early on we are treated with several moments showing us a glimpse of the normal child she was. Her sudden betrothal to Joseph is not something she welcomes, but we see it as a reality of family survival in those troubled times under the double domination of Herod and Rome. When the angel appears to her, she accepts the good news he brings - yet she doesn't completely believe it until she finds her much older cousin Elizabeth carrying the child who would be Jesus' messenger. Her most trying time comes when she returns home. A lot of adaptations tend to gloss over this part. Put yourself in her place, though - she's a 14-year-old girl, betrothed to a good man, who returns home with a child she claims to have been miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit. Her story was even less plausible back then than it would be today. Suddenly, she is a pariah of sorts, looked down upon by all who know her, her very future very much in doubt.

The thing I loved most about this film is the depth of its portrayal of Joseph. All too often, Joseph gets short shrift in the story of Christ's birth, but this film has one of the best characterizations of Joseph I've ever seen. Obviously mortified by Mary's pregnancy, he refuses to accuse her (thus very probably saving her life). Even after he is visited by an angel and told that Mary is indeed carrying the Son of God, it takes a lot of courage for him to take Mary as his wife and to claim a child that is not his. On the long and hard road to Bethlehem, we see many small yet all-encompassing examples of his sacrifice for Mary and the Child. After their arrival and frantic effort to find a room, it is Joseph who delivers the child himself. The bond that grows between he and Mary is one of this film's many great strengths.

The portrayal of the three Wise Men from the East is especially interesting, as they sometimes serve up a few bits of comic relief. One of them, for example, is less than enthused about actually traveling to Judea to find the child whose birth they have predicted based upon their study of the stars (with the star of Bethlehem being attributed to the rare convergence of three heavenly bodies). It really was a hard journey, requiring several months of travel across deserts and mountains. By conveying their journey basically in its entirety, this film produced in me a new level of respect for these men and their significance in the story of Jesus' birth.

The final half hour of the film pretty much blew me away. The light of the Star shining down on the manger, the depiction of the shepherds, the arrival of the Magi - it all really brings home the significance of this newborn baby. As if that isn't enough, the story also features some subtle and profound foreshadowing of later events in Jesus' life. For Christians, the film is truly a blessing, but even nonbelievers should appreciate the poignancy of the story, the fine acting, and the excellent cinematography - and everyone should welcome the opportunity to glance into the rearview mirror of time and get a sense of life as it was just over two thousand years ago.
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Low Budget But Good, 23 Mar 2007
By 
Mark Baker (Santa Clarita, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
In the village of Nazareth, the young woman Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is a daughter in a struggling family. They barely make enough to eat and pay the taxes when the Roman soldiers come through town. That's why when Joseph the carpenter (Oscar Isaac) proposes a marriage with Mary, her father quickly accepts. While she is not happy with the arranged marriage, her life gets much more complicated when the Angel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) appears and tells her she will bear the Messiah.

Meanwhile, three Magi are studying the night sky. As they see three stars coming together, they conclude that prophecy is being fulfilled and a great king is being born. They set out to find this child. And King Herod (Ciaran Hinds) continues his paranoia over his thrown. The same prophecies worry him. Is there a new threat to his throne?

When a movie tells a familiar story, it faces an uphill battle. It must find a way to draw the viewer into the events even though they know the outcome. This movie almost succeeded for me. I was pulled in most of the time watching these characters from the Biblical story brought to life. The friends I saw it with loved it and were deeply moved by it. At times, however, I found the low budget a bit of a distraction.

The producers of the film try to present the story with as little flash as possible. Since the story is set 2000 years ago, it mostly works. I did spot the occasional matte painting in the background, but was willing to forgive this "low tech" approach. What did bother me were scenes at the end that needed extras like the empty town of Bethlehem and the missing Angel chorus.

There was much to enjoy about the movie, however. The costumes and sets were wonderful. Also accurate was the depiction of the times in which the story takes place. We often forget the harsh treatment from the Romans and the consequences for both Mary and Joseph because of her pregnancy.

The performances are also great. Herod's mental illness comes through, yet he is very menacing. The Magi are lots of fun and provide some light moments. Absolutely perfect are Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Isaac as Mary and Joseph. They are likable, have good chemistry, and expertly show their characters' struggles.

The ending of the movie is very moving as the shepherds and Magi arrive to pay tribute to Jesus. And I'll grant the producers artistic license on this. I doubt they were there at the same time, but it makes for a better movie.

A bigger budget could have made this a better movie. Still, it is good because it shows the human elements and consequences we tend to gloss over in our annual Christmas celebrations.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...and thou shalt call his name Jesus.", 28 Jan 2007
By 
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
You know the plot: After young Mary is betrothed to an older man, she is told by an angel that she will bear God's son. She could be stoned for this pregnancy, but Joseph has a dream from God explaining the truth and he takes her as his wife. They must make the difficult journey to Bethlehem for the census, and they arrive just in time for the baby's arrival in a stable.

It is a lovely story, told quite simply and tastefully. The costumes and village sets are authentic-looking, rough-hewn in earth-tones. The international cast features Keisha Castle-Hughes as a straightforward and uncomplaining Mary, used to hard work and the tyranny of the Romans. Oscar Isaac is a warm and protective Joseph. Shohreh Aghdashloo is wonderful as Mary's cousin Elizabeth; in fact, the entire cast is convincing.

The movie is suitable for all ages and I hope it becomes a tradition to show it on television every year. It's a simple tale, happily lacking in Hollywood razzle-dazzle, beautifully photographed and respectfully directed. Highly recommended.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Nativity Story, 10 April 2007
By 
Dazzle (Durham, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
It's the best film I've ever seen about the nativity, before I saw it I had read a review that said the film lacked drama, it's true there are no epic battle scenes or anything of that kind but what you will find is a warm and moving film about the lives of two ordinary people caught up in something extraordinary. The casting is excellent and the standard of acting superb. The film fills in the gaps of the story without really straying from the biblical account. It makes you realise the implications of an unmarried young woman being pregnant in those times and how Joseph and their friends and family would have reacted. The film firmly puts the story in the context of the times and the Roman occupation by showing the hardships and difficulties they would have to face. It is very easy to empathise with the characters of Mary and Joseph and I like the sensitive way they were portrayed. The whole film has a really good sense of realism, the costumes and the locations are excellent. It may not be a big budget film but there is no sense that the movie suffered because of this. Only one small criticism, I did miss was the "multitude" of angels appearing to the shepherds.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, entertaining and worthwhile version, 23 Mar 2007
By 
S. A. Richards "Pelusa MG" (Minneapolis, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
I enjoyed watching The Nativity Story, and felt it was an interesting, entertaining and worthwhile entry in what is a well-trodden path in the world of film-making. However, in order to see value in this film, one must keep in mind that it is not a blow-by-blow account of the events recorded in the Gospels, but an attempt to expand on and explain what has been written there. In fact, I would go so far as to the say that many times The Nativity Story is really about trying to read-between the lines of what we find in the Gospels. For example, the film picks up on the fact that Mary could have been stoned to death under Jewish religious law for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, even though no mention of this is found in the Gospels. In fact, one thing the film does very well is to place the Nativity story into a definite social and religious historical context. These were different and difficult times, and by the end of the film one really has good sense of exactly what kind of commitment Joseph made to Mary by agreeing to marry her, even though she was pregnant.

However, saying that the purists amongst viewers of The Nativity Story will not like it, as it does tend to focus on elements which are not specifically recorded in the Gospels. For instance, a good 15-20 minutes of the film is spent tracing Joseph and Mary's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, in order to show how they both grew closer to each other and how their relationship developed. Yet in the Gospels, this journey is merely noted by the comment, 'So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child' (Luke 2:4f). There is also the suggestion that Mary and Joseph might have influenced Jesus in some of his teachings, through things they experienced along their journey. For instance, in a conversation with a shepherd one can hear echoes of Jesus' parables about the Talents and the Good Samaritan. Saying that, there are also interesting moments such as when Joseph and Mary discuss how they will know Jesus is the Messiah, and whether this will be due to something he says or does. It is at times like these when I appreciated the film-maker's willingness to explore the depth of the Nativity story. If nothing else, the film brought a rather (too) familiar story alive again, even if along the way it plodded about in the desert, added it's own 'interpretation' of the tale, and even utilised the journey of the wise men for some comic down-time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely contribution to the cinematic repertoire., 11 Dec 2014
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
The perfect gift for all historical movie buffs is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Fortunately, the strong acting by Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) and especially Oscar Isaac in their respective leading roles as Mary and Joseph propel this film. I was pleasantly surprised by Isaac, whose subtleties brought heaps of humility to a challenging role. Watch as he tiptoes around Mary's response with such fragility after asking her parent's permission for her hand in marriage: glancing worriedly at them, and hopefully back at Mary, and back again to her parents. His face conveys much more age than Mary's but his sensitivities compliment her youth and naivete nicely.

Director Catherine Hardwick seems an unlikely candidate for such a historical "epic" as The Nativity Story aims to be, especially with her only real directing experience being two emotionally-intense, teenage docudramas, yet she handles the film well. Yet the general pacing of the film is slow, with hiccups of action that seem to have made the final cut thanks to studio script notes, not naturally accompanying the plot.

Unsurprisingly, the film is also not without its cliches. The color timing is the chosen "grey/brown and bleached" as we have come to expect from this genre. The three wise Magi bring the film's only real comic relief, thankfully countering every other characters' moping.

The music by Mychael Danna runs seemingly wall-to-wall, piping up during every scene and often misplaced in tone (note the scene where pregnant Mary finally returns home and Joseph and her father square off at the surprise. We chuckled at their "whodunit" confusion while the music pounded away intensely, pushing for conflict.)

The Nativity is not as well done as The Passion but, again, it is better to see a good and moral story coming out of a Hollywood studio than no film at all.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic film, 9 May 2010
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
Excellent film. Really wonderful. Atmospheric, enchanting, inspiring. Very good acting, visually beautiful. I love it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware: distressing opening scenes for younger viewers, 2 Dec 2014
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This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
I bought this DVD to watch with my children and I am very glad that I decided to watch it myself first. Buyers should be aware that the opening scenes show the murder of a young boy by soldiers and the kidnapping of young female villagers by soldiers for whom they will 'work to pay for [the fathers' debts]'. Needless to say, it is a distressing start and one that is likely to trouble young viewers. I do not mean to criticise the film, but to question its certificate and warn parents and teachers who might put it on for children in the run up to Christmas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars .Beautiful, original but sensitive and very watchable adaptation, 29 Dec 2009
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
Draws out the human drama of the nativity without sacrificing anything of the numinous. Beautifully shot, with lovely chemistry between the main characters. Great acting from all. Good insight into nature of Roman dominance of Judea at the time, and therefore the political context of the story. Imaginitively adapts without distorting the story or "Hollywoodising" it; captivates my 2 kids (9 & 11) but also satisfies and moves my husband (a theology postgrad and very critical of these things). Agree with other reviewers that it could have used an angel chorus at the end. Actual nativity scene and end very Christmas cardey but it seems churlish to complain, and it satisfies expectations. Good score, which artfully weaves in many Christmas carols, which adds depth if you know some of the words. We have taken to watching it every Christmas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real story, 7 Feb 2011
This review is from: The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
Having seen this on T.V. at Christmas I wanted to own it for myself. It explores the feelings of the people involved which brings a new dimension to the story, and helps us to understand the amazing reality of what happenend 2,000 years ago.
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The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006)
The Nativity Story [DVD] (2006) by Catherine Hardwicke (DVD - 2007)
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