By Matthew Sawczyn
If you’ve ever been blessed to visit the Holy Land, or have spoken with someone who has, a common description is that the Gospels suddenly felt real. Seeing the dirt, the water, the sky under which Jesus walked… there is an indescribable tangibility to the Faith that hits the pilgrim. Jesus really existed (I mean, really existed); He grew up, He ate, He lived among real people in a real time. The Gospels change from stories heard as children to historical accounts of actual lives. Jesus’s life was fuller than any of ours, and it was this life that changed the world.
I had a similar experience watching VidAngel Studios’ new series, The Chosen. Its story is hardly new: a retelling of the life of Christ. And yet, creator Dallas Jenkins and his team inject such a breath of fresh air into the familiar tale that it feels fresh and new, almost as if we’re witnessing it for the first time. Because of course, for those who first experienced it, this story was something completely alive and new. The first ever multi-season show about Jesus and the most successful crowd funded media project to date, The Chosen stands as a testament to how compelling the life of Jesus really is.
Right from the pilot, the show captures the essence of the Biblical narrative, in all its dynamism. There’s a sense of immediacy to the series; the people feel authentic, the dialogue natural. They inhabit a true place with everyday problems. Social cues, second guesses, big and small moments alike… these all play a part in the very human story being told. These characters are relatable, Jesus above all.
Actor Jonathan Roumie embodies beautifully the warmth, humor, and drive that Jesus—the man most fully alive—must have had. His new disciples (Shahar Isaac, Noah James, Paras Patel, Elizabeth Tabish) are just as believable and developed. They’re young, vibrant, impetuous, scared, excited. They are not yet stoic figures in stained glass, but inhabitants of the earth: witnesses of incredulous things, sinners becoming saints. Their lives are explored and expanded, as we see their personal doubts and struggles. There exists actual stakes for these very normal first century folk. Erick Avari and Brandon Potter ground the story with their mature performances, and remind us of the very real world stakes and repercussions for those involved with this itinerant preacher and his new movement.
The Chosen isn’t perfect, but it definitely hits the mark of quality storytelling, rising to the challenge of our increased demand for moving, rich television. It pulses with energy. Each episode will leave you on the edge of your seat, ready to binge the next one. With the liturgical season of Lent upon us, consider starting up an episode, and seeing where it leads you. You won’t be disappointed.
About the Author
Matthew Sawczyn is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, and an alumnus of JPCatholic (MBA in Film Producing – Class of 2017). He loves hiking, HBO, and cuddly cats.
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