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Fiona Paloma in Journey to Bethlehem (IMDB/Affirm Films Inc)

Journey to Bethlehem is a live-action Christmas musical adventure that weaves classic Christmas melodies with humour, faith and popular songs in a retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus. Source: Australian Catholics.

The film takes the main aspects of the Infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke (noting at the end that it has taken some liberties with the drama) and offers the opportunity for the main characters to sing pleasant, but not outstanding, songs. 

There are some touches of tradition as a young woman who accompanies the Magi does sing one of the traditional advent hymns, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and at the birth of Jesus, sings Silent Night. And the atmosphere during the final credits is an enthusiastic rendition of the traditional, Go Tell It on the Mountain.

A word that comes to mind as we watch this Gospel musical is “pantomime”, although underlying it all, of course, are the serious themes of Mary, the Annunciation, the role of Joseph, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the persecution of the Holy Family by Herod.

Fiona Palomo is charming as a strong-minded Mary, trained in the Scriptures by her father and desirous of being a teacher, but an arranged marriage is set up – and then, pantomime glitter and echoes of Jesus Christ Superstar with the initially bumbling but then glitzy appearance of Angel Gabriel. Joseph (Manheim) is suitably bewildered, likes Mary, and adjusts to the situation.

However, at various times, there is some pantomime overacting, especially on the part of Antonio Cantos as Mary’s father Joachim, and with British comedian Djalili as one of the Magi clowning around. Then, on the other side of humour, there are the pantomime villains, especially Banderas as Herod. Not particularly Herod “the Great”, but scowling and scheming, intimidating and threatening, jumping and chewing on his songs. 

Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC, Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics

Journey to Bethlehem: Starring Fiona Palomo, Milo Manheim, Antonio Banderas, Joel Smallbone, Geno Segers, Omid Djalili, Rizwan Manji, Moriah, Stephanie Gil, Lecrae. Directed by Adam Anders. 99 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes).


Journey to Bethlehem (Australian Catholics)