Over the decades, faith-based films have gotten a lousy rap…deservedly so. I get it. I have well-meaning believers tell me I should watch such-and-such, “It’ll changed your life!” I’m then stunned about how a horribly-produced film ever changed anyone (see Thief in the Night). You have a vast dogmatic audience that is easily offended by anything that’s a little off (especially when it comes to Jesus Christ himself), so religious dramas and comedies are forced to toe the Christian line, which means it offers watered-down boredom and any excitement is dulled or surgically removed.
Christian bookstores and church libraries are littered with dozens of versions of the life of Christ. They all look the same and portray Christ as a superhero dispensing fortune-cookie advice. So, in comes The Chosen from director Dallas Jenkins. Just from the packaging, I thought, “Ugh, I’ve seen this before.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Jesus is pretty much wrapping up his career as a carpenter, and we delve into the personal lives of his future disciples.”
The Chosen is an eight-episode series (of which I’ve seen the first four) taking place before Jesus Christ’s “ministry” begins (look up John The Baptist). This alone is the freshest take I’ve ever seen on the story of Christ and scores huge points with me. Jesus is pretty much wrapping up his career as a carpenter, and we delve into the personal lives of his future disciples.
Here are a few of the storylines we follow in The Chosen. Fishermen Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac) and Andrew (Noah James) find themselves in a bind. The fishing in Capernaum is terrible, they have fallen behind on their taxes, and they make a deal with Roman Magistrate Quintus (Brandon Potter) to turn narc on his deadbeat competition in exchange for clearing their debt. Not paying debts usually involves losing everything and being sold into slavery.
Matthew (Paras Patel) is the newly instated regional tax collection, despised by all, including his family, because he has the legal authority to extract money from commoners. In soap opera fashion, Matthew suspects that Simon Peter is not actually spying on the competition as promised and may be simply delaying his debt payment.
Nicodemus (Erick Avari) is the head Pharisee (religious leader) and is reticent about his role as the public spiritual leader. His authority is put to the test when the Romans insist that he takes care of a demon-possessed woman, Mary M. (Elizabeth Tasbish).