Just in time for the holidays, "Black Nativity" arrives in theaters this week complete with themes of forgiveness, redemption, and even a Christmas miracle.
Boasting a star-studded cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and newcomer Jacob Latimore, director Kasi Lemmons was able to loosely base the film on the famed play of the same name by Langston Hughes.
Although the story may be best enjoyed in its original setting off-Broadway, the film brightly conveyed the indomitable power of family and forgiveness.
"Black Nativity" opens with teenaged Langston (Latimore) living in Baltimore with his mother Naima, frustrated over their financial struggle and combating peer pressure. Then, faced with eviction, Naima tells her sullen son he is spending Christmas with his estranged grandparents in New York City.
Once Langston arrives in the Harlem home of his grandparents-- Rev. Cobb and Aretha (Whitaker and Bassett), he quickly realizes his grandfather's stubborn attitude and unrelenting devotion to faith. The teenager initially refuses to accept his grandfather's vocation, but as more details about his family's history emerge, Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey of faith over the Christmas holiday.
"Black Nativity" comes with a shining musical score that includes Mary J. Blige. The iconic singer who portrays a guardian angel in the film also teamed up with Nas on the track "Rise Up Shepherd & Follow," while other gospel songs in the film include Hudson's "Test of Faith" and "Fix Me Jesus," among others.
In an appealing directorial decision, Lemmons had each character open in song in a very natural way, as if singing were an extension of their action and dialogue.
One scene in particular stands out in "Black Nativity." Rev. Cobb's annual Christmas Eve program closely resembles Hughes' play with a dream sequence, and the gorgeous scene includes a stage decorated in black and gold featuring an incredible choir that includes Blige.
Furthermore, "Black Nativity" takes an honest look at Christians who are dealing with mistakes they have made and asking for forgiveness. For instance, Rev. Cornell Cobbs admitted to meddling in his daughter's affairs. While he was only trying to do what was best for her, Cobbs acted disgracefully and ultimately divided his family.
Also, the film follows Tyrese's character, Loot, who is a convicted criminal but trying to right his wrongs and get off the path of delinquency.
All in all, "Black Nativity" offers families a modern-day musical that touches on real-life problems and dangers that teens encounter today, all while offering an uplifting and entertaining story of one family's journey in faith.
"Black Nativity" hits theaters everywhere on Nov. 29. Watch a trailer for the film here.