Review of Kasi Lemmons’s Black Nativity, the musical

Relationships are often fraught with conflicts. With hope, these conflicts are resolved favorably.  These conflicts and their subsequent reconciliation are evident in Kasi Lemmons’s the Black Nativity. He is both the author and the director of the screenplay. The original work, by Librettist, Langston Hughes, uses themes of love, hope, and reconciliation as the backdrop for the birth of Jesus in this film. It is through the birth of Jesus and through His life that we find these themes aforementioned.  The film is centered around Langston who has to spend Christmas with his grandparents whom he has never known.  The film stars at least one A-list actor as well as other accomplished actors.  Forrest Whittaker stars as Rev. Cornell Cobbs, Angela Bassett stars as Aretha Cobbs, his wife, Jennifer Hudson stars as Naima, his daughter and Jacob Latimer stars as Langston, the grandson of Rev. Cobb. There are other talented musicians who star in this musical performance who help make this film celebrity filled and enjoyable.  The film is a combination of both a musical and a drama that captivates its viewers from the inception of the film. It is through Langston that restoration takes place.  The question that permeates the film is if Christ is omnipotent, then why has reconciliation not taken place between Rev. Cobb and his daughter? This is a question that every Christian must apply to his own life and answer at some time during his relationship with Jesus. The answer is that with Christ, reconciliation is always possible.  At what cost are we willing to reconcile and how long are we willing to persevere in prayer until it happens? These questions and answers are explored in great depth in the film.

The soundtrack has songs that greatly speak to the emotions of the characters and the daunting circumstances that surround the characters. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film,  we are able to empathize with Langston when Nas, a rapper, sings “Motherless Child”.  Langston feels like a motherless child because he is sent to live with family whom he had never met. Moreover, the decades old song, “Jesus is on the Mainline” sung by Bassett and Whittaker speaks to the hope of reconciliation by Rev. Cobb and his wife with their daughter. Additionally, “He loves me still ” helps everyone to see that Jesus loves us in spite of our faults, in spite of our “mess ups”. The songs inspire us to come to Jesus in spite of our mistakes.

Forrest Whittaker and Jacob Latimer deliver stupendous performances.  Many viewers will be able to both empathize and sympathize with both characters.  Latimer is an up and coming singer and actor who exhibits great effusion when acting.  Whittaker, as Cobb, when perturbed manages to deliver his lines emphatically without losing his ministerial attributes.  When leaving the theater, one feels encouraged and hope filled-knowing that with Christ all things are indeed possible.

This film is beautiful and inspirational.  Although the themes and some scenes are mature, this is a great family film that can give all of us an impetus to work through conflicts so that reconciliation takes place.  This film helps us realize that Christ’s love is the reason for the season. This film is highly recommended.

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