THE BOOK OF CLARENCE is a Fresh and Entertaining Take on the Jesus Story

From writer/director Jeymes Samuel, musical artist and filmmaker behind The Harder They Fall, comes a comedic and satirical take on the Gospel stories of Jesus Christ. Going into this film, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The trailers made the film seem like an edgy satire on the concept of religion, particularly Christianity. This movie could be more like a spoof like Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. Neither version is the actual case when it comes to The Book of Clarence.

Though I am not at all familiar with Jeymes Samuel’s actual religious beliefs, after watching this movie, it is evident that he has much love and admiration for Gospel stories and Biblical films. Now, though his movie takes some satirical jabs at some of Christianity, it shows some reverence for what Jesus is intended to represent and shows the filmmaker’s wonderment for the miracles Jesus performed in the Gospel stories. Ultimately, I found The Book of Clarence to be a refreshing and exciting take on Biblical stories and the movies they inspired.

In A.D. 33, poor and struggling con man Clarence has run out of schemes and tricks to pull to get himself out of debt. He is in rather deep with loan shark Jedediah the Terrible, who has lost his patience. Faced with an ultimatum, Clarence desperately seeks a way to con himself out of this life-threatening situation. After failing miserably to join his brother, twin brother Thomas, as one of Jesus’s apostles, Clarence decides that if Jesus can declare himself a Messiah, perhaps this game could also work for him.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this movie. The humor was quite amusing, and the characters were fun and compelling. This movie is at its best and funniest when it pokes fun at some of the more outlandish conventions that have been accepted by Christianity for way too long. For example, Jeymes Samuel has a lot of fun poking fun at the concept of the “White Jesus.” I will leave it at that so as not to spoil this movie further, but that example perfectly illustrates the type of things the filmmaker lampoons with his film.

At the same time, Samuel adores the story of Jesus and never pokes fun at this. The presentation of Jesus’ miracles can occasionally come across as silly, but I believe it was not intentionally presented that way. Samuel simply wanted to show them in modern and exciting new ways.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this movie’s excellent cast of talents. LaKeith Stanfield is outstanding in the dual role of two very different twin brothers, Clarence and Thomas. Omar Sy gives a formidable and passionate performance as Barabbas. RJ Cyler gives a lively and amusing turn as Clarence’s best friend and crime partner, Elijah. Anna Diop is quite lovable as Varinia, Clarence’s love interest. The movie also features great work by David Oyelowo, Micheal Ward, Teyana Taylor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, James McAvoy, and Nicholas Pinnock.

The more diehard, dogmatic Christians will take exception and have some problems with some of the humor and the overall bold approach to the religious story. However, more open-minded people will enjoy this movie as much as I did. The Book of Clarence is not for everyone, but at the same time, I wish that more people would give it a chance. Jeymes Samuel seems quite earnest and passionate about his love for Biblical stories and this movie shows expresses that love beautifully.

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