The Book of Esther is a beloved tale for Jews and Christians alike. It chronicles Mordecai and his cousin Esther, Jewish exiles to the land of Persia, who become pivotal in the government, and instrumental in saving the lives of the Jewish people.
Mordecai becomes a palace official, and helps to engineer Esther's rise to become King Xerxes' queen. The antagonist of the story, Prime Minister Haman of Agagite, seeks to destroy Mordecai because Mordecai refuses to bow down to him. Through Haman's jealousy and desire to control the young King Xerxes, Haman engages in a dangerous game of venomous intrigue, resulting in a plot to murder the Jewish people in the land of Persia. Esther must petition King Xerxes to save the lives of her people, even though, by law, she cannot approach the King unless summoned. Disobeying this law could result in her immediate death. As the story unfolds, it emphasizes the values of faithfulness in foreign situations, knowing and obeying God's will, doing what is right, and courage in the midst of adverse circumstances.
The film stars newcomer Joel Smallbone (frontman of for King & Country, an inspirational rock band), Jen Lilley (General Hospital, Revelation Road), Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco), and Thaao Penghlis (Days of Our Lives). Smallbone exudes presence and charm in his first turn on the silver screen. He and Lilley have obvious chemistry, and this helps to cement and shape the influence that Esther has over King Xerxes.
Certain dramatic license has been taken with the Biblical account, including the inclusion of the character of Haman's daughter, who is placed in the running for King Xerxes' affection. This plot twist allows the audience to see Esther's compassion and empathy. After Esther is chosen as Queen, she takes Haman's daughter under her wing as a handmaiden. This is one of the film's impressive moments, along with the scenes between Queen Esther and King Xerxes. Also of note is Thaao Penghlis (a longtime soap star), who does his usual chewing of the furniture in embodying Haman. This works to heighten the telling, and move the story forward with a bit of humor.
Where the film falls flat is in the script and direction. The dialogue too often sounds tinny and forced, with false notes that do not match the circumstances presented on screen. I also take issue with the lack of diversity in the players. In this day and age, there are many known and unknown Middle Eastern actors that could have been cast; so it befuddles me why more effort was not taken to make the actors and actresses, if only in the pivotal role of Esther, more representative of the actual times.
Just like The Bible miniseries, The Book of Esther brings to life timeless truth in a form that reaches beyond a typical Christian audience. The hope is that those unfamiliar with The Holy Bible or the story of Esther will seek out the original source and find their own inspiration, direction, and salvation in its pages.