In his new film, “The Young Messiah,” Director Cyrus Nowrasteh knew that he needed to break the mold when it came to depicting Jesus’ foster-father, St. Joseph.
“I think in other films that have been done over the years, he’s just kind of wallpaper, he’s just kind of hanging around and frankly, not distinctive at all,” Nowrasteh told CNA. “I thought to myself, ‘That could not be the case.’”
Even though Joseph has no recorded words in the Gospel, Nowrasteh sensed that he “must have been strong and morally upright” given the “really heavy responsibility” God gave him in raising the Son of God and being the husband to the Mother of God.
In his new film that hit theaters March 11, Nowrasteh made sure that Joseph was a leading character and the strong decision maker of the family.
The film is based on Ann Rice’s 2008 novel, “Christ the Lord,” and picks up when the Holy Family returns to Nazareth after having spent several years seeking refuge in Egypt.
During this time, Jesus (Adam Greaves-Neal) begins to realize that he’s not quite the same as other children and naturally, Mary (Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (Vincent Walsh) struggle with the deciding whether or not to reveal what they know about him in the midst of political tensions threatening to reach a boiling point.
Despite the chaos surrounding their family, Joseph is shown as a leader with a tender devotion to his wife and son.
“I was very motivated to make sure there was a very strong imprint of the Joseph character and his fatherly devotion to this child and his husbandly devotion to Mary and to protecting the family in chaotic times,” he said.
Of course, the story is largely a work of artistic speculation and is based on a time of Jesus’ life that is shrouded in mystery, but it remains faithful to traditional understandings of Joseph as a chaste husband to Mary and a loving father to Jesus.
“We just know so little about Joseph that he certainly piqued my curiosity,” Nowrasteh said.
The film has been so well received by Catholics that the Sisters of St. Paul decided to host a “cinema novena” to the Holy Family ending on the Feast of St. Joseph. Although the novena has already began, participants can sign up at any time.
Along with daily meditations and prayers, participants also receive “powerful, living depictions” of the Holy Family with clips from the film.
Nowrasteh said that overall he hopes audience members are “entertained,” “moved,” and “transformed.”
“Whether they’re secular folks or faith-based audience, I hope they come out talking about Jesus, talking about what went on during those turbulent times when a messiah was born and emerged,” he said.