Courtesy of Catherine Hardwicke, and adapted principally from the books of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament, The Nativity Story is a fairly high-budget movie adaptation of a story particularly popular in churches during the Christmas season.While most of this film does focus on the conception and birth of Jesus as indicated in the title, several subplots also get considerable screen time:
King Herod the Great gets plenty of screen time to demonstrate both why he was "great" and why he's mostly remembered as a cruel and paranoid tyrant; his son Antipas also spends considerable time with him in many of these scenes.
Mary's cousin Elizabeth, though past her child-bearing years, is also having a baby. After all, as Gabriel explains to Mary, if God can do that for her, getting a virgin pregnant can't be too much more difficult, can it?
Meanwhile, somewhere to the east, the Three Wise Men have noticed some odd behavior in the stars telling them a child of some significance is soon to be born in Israel; naturally, they decide they'd like to see this for themselves.
We also get some background on the townspeople and the culture in which Mary lives, seeing how they're mostly tax serfs slaving away on Herod's plantation.
Provides Examples Of:
Affably Evil: Herod's son Antipas usually comes off as much nicer than his father, but when he recommends the Three Wise Men be arrested and interrogated, it's Herod who proposes inviting them to dinner for some friendly conversation instead.
Anachronism Stew: Mary's question of why she has to marry a man she does not love is a mild case of Values Dissonance, relating to a wholly modern concern and therefore a question no one in her culture would have asked in the first place.
Mary was still a young girl. Wanting to be with someone you love wasn't invented in the modern era, especially for a girl of 16.
Several scenes also have more concrete historical inaccuracies, such as Roman soldiers having beards and their horses having stirrups.
Backstab Backfire: Herod has his suspicions about Antipas' motives. So he reminds him about the last time his family members tried to betray him, and warns him that the same fate will befall him should he try to screw him over.
Herod: I have had a wife betray me. I have had two sons do the same, before you. Where are they now?
Antipas: No more.
Herod: No more.
Badass: Joseph. Not only does he build his house with his bare hands, but after Mary's pregnancy is revealed he has to do it alone. He saves Mary and their donkey from drowning, protects them against thieves and pickpockets in Jerusalem, and after Mary goes into labor and can no longer travel just a short distance from their destination, he carries her into Bethlehem going door to door before finally finding a safe place for her to give birth.
Big Bad: The Roman soldiers commit several atrocities and the tiresome tax enrollment comes from the distant Emperor Augustus, but it's mostly King Herod the Great who's running the show on the villains' side of the story.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: parodied: Arguably; the tremendous honor of getting pregnant with God's own son was actually intended as a reward and a blessing for Mary's virtue, but it feels a lot more like a punishment throughout this movie.
Pragmatic Adaptation: This not being a musical, some of the the poetry traditionally identified as "songs" in the book of Luke was understandably either trimmed down or trimmed out.
Also, The Three Wise Men show up at the manger, despite most Bible scholars believing they more likely arrived some time later. Obviously, the more accurate version would have resulted in an anticlimax.
Romance Ensues: Between Mary and Joseph having to join forces against suspicious parents and neighbors, and taking a long journey together to Bethlehem and beyond, how could it not?
Of course, it didn't hurt that in this version of the story, Joseph was already into Mary. The movie suggests that rather than being a strictly arranged marriage he actually requested permission from her parents.
Talking with Signs: Until the birth of John, Zechariah is forced to communicate by writing on a tablet.
Teen Pregnancy: Played straight, despite the unusual circumstances (see No Good Deed Goes Unpunished): Mary's reputation with the townspeople takes a serious hit, as does Joseph's when he decides to go through with the marriage.
Which is amusing seeing as how Castle-Hughes was actually pregnant during the filming of the movie.