NOTE: A great spoiler sent in by Phillip W. who adds... "If you've read the book of Luke in the Bible then you know how this movie goes. And the Producers of this movie have taken painstaking effort to make this movie as close to factual as they could possibly be. "
The movie starts in Nazareth with Mary and Joseph becoming engaged and basically reads like the book of Luke. There is very specific efforts to show you how cruel and hard life was 2,000 years ago. They spend a lot of time filming the houses, and the people actually living their daily lives. The Angel Gabriel visits Mary at night, and they show you the Angel with white light behind it. For what it's worth, the Angel looks like Josh Grobin. Tall, skinny, white guy with a perm and a fake smile. Mary and Joseph are also shown becoming engaged, with an expression of fear and denial on Mary's face, as she is shown as being depressed at the forced marriage.
They also show Zachariah going into the Temple in Jerusalem and having his experience with God, telling him of Elizabeth's pending pregnancy. Zach doesn't believe God, so God makes him mute. Again, the attention to detail with regards to costumes, and sets is simply stunning. There may be a potential Academy Award nomination in this category forthcoming. Elizabeth becomes pregnant, and then Mary, through her vision with the angel Gabriel convinces her parents that she needs to travel to be with Elizabeth for 6 months. You will have to actually see the movie to grasp the power and effort the producers put into how difficult travel was 2,000 years ago. Today we travel 100 miles in a couple of hours. But 2,000 years ago a journey of even 10 miles could be deadly. This is brought to the forefront of this movie, which again, makes it very realistically portrayed.
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Once Elizabeth gives birth, with Mary at her side, Mary returns to Nazareth where she is confronted by the townspeople, and we are shown a scene where Joseph has to decide whether or not to submit her to public scorn, and stoning, for it is obvious in this scene that she is pregnant. Joseph decides against it, and Mary is saved from the town. Roman Soldiers show up in the next scene where they announce the census. There is then a huge debate in Joseph's family about what to do. Joseph tells his family that he must take Mary to Bethlehem. So after a big debate he throws Mary on a donkey and off they ride into the sunset. The next 20 minutes or more of the movie is devoted to their 100 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There is heavy emphasis on the difficulty of the journey. They show Mary nearly drowning, trying to cross a river, and then near the end of the journey they show Joseph near collapse and out of food, with feet that are bloodied and worn to the point of permanent scarring.
The movie also seques back and forth between Three Wise Men, who spend 6 months traveling from the East. Again, painstaking effort, and a fair amount of time are spent introducing these characters to the movie. They tell their story as legitimate scholars who basically travel the 6 month journey based on their faith, and belief that three stars will align to make one huge and bright star that will culminate with the prophecies being fulfilled. They show intense debate between the three scholars, with dissension from one of the scholars as to why he won't make the journey, basically because he doesn't believe that the journey will be fruitful. Again, very good sets, and very good costumes meet your eye in this movie. Lighting was especially well done to give the desired effect for these three characters. And there were several scenes devoted to showing these three wise men on camel in the middle of a sand storm in the desert - again placing emphasis on the hardships of travel 2,000 years ago.
The Wise Men make their way into Jerusalem where they are greeted by King Herod, who invites them to dine with him. They discuss what you read in the Gospels, and Herod asks the Wise Men to report back to him what they find in Bethlehem. So on they go...
We go back to Mary and Joseph nearing the end of their journey. Mary goes into labor just on the outskirts of Bethlehem, and we see Joseph frantically trying to find a place for them to let Mary give birth. All doors are shut to them, and they end up in a cave with the animals all around. They show a realistic labor and birth, and then right as the baby is born the three stars that were merging in the sky become one hugh bright star, which conveniently shines into the cave/stable. The Shepherds are greeted by our Angel buddy, Gabriel, and they make their way to the stable to see the new baby. The Wise Men show up a scene later and lay their gifts at the feet of the new baby.
The movie ends with the Wise Men deciding that they should avoid going back to see Herod, and they decide to return home another way. We are also shown Herod in his attempt to kill the new baby by murdering all young babies in Bethlehem that are under 2 years of age. However, Joseph is told by an Angel to skip town just before Herod's troops arise, and we are shown Mary and Joseph heading off to Egypt as the credit's roll.
And for the rest of the story you can read the Gospel of Luke to see how it all turns out, and for the real significance of this baby on the world.
One final note. The cast in this movie could pass for legitimate Palestinians. There is no blonde hair nor blue eyes in this movie. Very realistic in all facets.
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