Film and Plot Synopsis
The film’s story is based on the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ. In Nazareth, teenage Mary is betrothed to the local carpenter, Joseph. Mary is visited by the Archangel Gabriel who tells her that she will fulfill a prophecy and as a virgin give birth to the son of God. Mary’s pregnancy brings her the scorn of the community and Joseph struggles to believe her seemingly outlandish story. Meanwhile, a census forces every man and his family to return to his place of birth. Joseph and Mary set out on a long and arduous journey to Bethlehem, unaware of the danger that waits for them from King Herod.
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‘The Nativity Story’ Movie Summary
In Nazareth, young Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is farming when soldiers come to collect taxes from the villagers. One man is unable to pay and has a third of his land seized and his daughter pressed into debt slavery. Mary is visited by Gabriel and told that she will become pregnant with God’s son, and that she is to name the child Jesus. Gabriel also informs her that her cousin Elizabeth has also been blessed with a child despite her age. Mary is already betrothed to marry Joseph of Judaea (Oscar Isaac). Despite this, Mary decides to travel to Jerusalem to visit Elizabeth.
Once in Jerusalem, she assists Elizabeth and Zechariah with their daily duties and is present to witness the birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth and Zechariah, who regains his speech after the birth of his child. Afterwards, Mary returns to Nazareth pregnant. Joseph and her parents are shocked at her physical state. Her parents fear that Joseph will accuse her of adultery, a sin that is punishable by death according to the Torah. Mary tries to explain to them her visit from Gabriel. Joseph does not believe Mary’s religious explanation but decides not to accuse her due to his love for her. Nevertheless, he is still disturbed by her pregnancy until he himself is visited by Gabriel, who tells him of God’s plan for Mary’s son. After the visitation, Joseph becomes a true believer and feels ashamed for his previous doubts.
At the same time, King Herod the Great (Ciarán Hinds) worries about an ancient prophecy of a Messiah rising to lead the people. It is this fear that resulted in Herod ordering the Massacre of the Innocents in the Nativity. Meanwhile, Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus has ordered that every man across the Roman Empire return with his family to the place of his birth for the census. Joseph is a direct descendant of King David, so he is forced to travel on foot over rocky terrain from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the place of his birth. Mary travels with him on a donkey that also carries their supplies.
The journey takes four weeks. Upon arriving in town, Mary immediately goes into labor. Joseph desperately seeks a place for Mary to give birth to the son of God. However, there is no room anywhere. An innkeeper offers Joseph and Mary a place in his stable for shelter. The son of God is born shortly afterwards.
Meanwhile, three Magi, or wisemen, Caspar (Stefan Kalipha), Melchior (Nadim Sawalha), and Balthasar (Eriq Ebouaney) travel towards Judaea after discovering that three planets will align to form a great star. The Magi believe that this will herald the coming of the Messiah. The Star of Bethlehem appears before the Magi, after a visit by the Archangel Gabriel. Along their journey, they are welcomed by Herod who believes that they may have information about the identity or location of the Messiah. They inadvertently reveal that the Messiah is still a child and he will be a Messiah “for the lowest of men to the highest of kings.”
Herod is shocked to learn that the predicted Messiah is a mere child. Herod requests that the Magi visit the newborn child and report back to him what they find under the pretense that he too would like to worship the Messiah. Instead, Herod plans to kill the child for fear of the child rising to take his throne.
The Magi arrive at the stable where Mary has given birth to Jesus. They present the child with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When they leave, the Magi agree to avoid returning to Herod and reporting on the Messiah’s birth. They decide to take a different route back home. Herod realizes that the Magi have deceived him and orders the death of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two. In Bethlehem, Joseph is warned of the coming danger in a dream. He takes Mary and Jesus and flees to Egypt for their safety as the film ends.
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