The Nativity (2010) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

The story of Jesus' birth has been told many times over, but never quite with this much heart.

Mary (Tatiana Maslany) is sixteen and old enough to marry. Those at the temple try to persuade her parents to make a financially beneficial match to a much older man, but they argue in favor of a younger one -- so Joseph (Andrew Buchan) is chosen. He has no great wealth and is a carpenter. He dreams of building a small house for them to live in, and is eager for Mary to like him, but uncertain of her parents. The two slowly fall in love after their betrothal, never realizing that something will threaten to tear them apart...

In the hills outside Bethlehem, a shepherd named Thomas (Al Weaver) struggles to make ends meet. His wife has become ill after the birth of their first child and he cannot afford both the medicine and to pay his taxes. His resentment against Rome builds, as the high priest encourages him to pray and hope for a miracle, a messiah to save them all...

And in the far east, the Magi Council is stirring, for three stars are out of alignment. In nine months' time, they will come together in an unheard of collaboration to form a single powerful star. Melchoir (Jack Shepherd) is convinced it coincides with the prophecy about a coming King of the Jews, and wants to journey forth across borders into Judea to see this child before he dies. His friend Gaspar (Obi Abili) is just as eager, but Balthazar (Peter Capaldi) is more hesitant and aware of the danger of passing across King Herod's border unannounced...

And then, one night, Mary awakens to find a strange man in the garden. The angel, Gabriel...

I have been disappointed many times with retellings of the nativity story, because somehow most of them seem to neglect the human element of the story. This is the first time that I have fallen in love with the characters of Mary and Joseph as humans and as romantic couple, and truly seen the doubt and incredulity that wreaked havoc on their reputations. Rather than the stoic, emotionally dead Mary that so many adaptations fall into, this one is vibrant and full of life, funny and assertive in her views, devout and loveable. Joseph is equally delightful, a young man eager to prove himself and hoping against the odds that Mary can find it in her heart to love him back. And then ... she comes home from her cousin Elizabeth's house with a crazy story that turns his world upside-down. He doesn't believe her! Some might balk at this adaptation drawing out his disbelief for so long, but it does not alter the Bible story so much as flesh it out, and the moment he chooses to accept that his dream is real is made all the more powerful because the writer sets it at a pivotal moment.

Emotion is the undercurrent of this story, along with truly likable characters... including the Magi. Each is unique, and all of them are memorable. It's true that the story falters on a few minor fronts; people have complained about the historical inaccuracies in costuming and set design, but it did not detract from the story for me. I went in expecting subpar entertainment, but I should have had greater faith, because I could not stop watching it and when it ended, I felt sad... because surely, having fallen so much in love with these characters... there is more!
Sexual Content:
Joseph laments that they cannot be intimate after their betrothal; he (and others) accuse Mary of being a whore.
People pelt Mary with rocks and threaten to stone her for adultery. It's implied but not shown that goats are killed.