The Book of Clarence (Blu-ray Review)

Biblical stories were once all the rage in cinema. Grand scale, huge scope and sweeping storytelling kept people coming to the theaters in droves once upon a time. Then, suddenly, there was a very serious drought in the genre.  All the stories had been done, and the ones people came up with, especially in recent times have been few and far between and often very disappointing.  The announcement of The Book of Clarencefollowed by an equally intriguing trailer led me to think it was the right time for a new spin on a once beloved genre. Read more about the vivid and fresh The Book of Clarence below and feel free to click the cover art at the end to get your copy on Blu-ray today!


The Book of Clarence is a bold new take on the timeless Hollywood era Biblical epic. Streetwise but struggling, Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield) is trying to find a better life for himself and his family, make himself worthy to the woman he loves, and prove that he’s not a nobody. Captivated by the power and glory of the rising Messiah and His apostles, he risks everything to carve his own path to a divine life, a journey through which he finds redemption and faith, power, and knowledge.

Clarence seems like he’s from another time.  Yes, it is 33 AD and one Sunday morning Clarence and his friend Elijah have bet Mary Magdalene, they can beat her in a chariot race.  What follows is a rather incredible chase through the streets of Jerusalem, with Mary having the time of her life and Clarence and Elijah holding on to their hope with bated breath. Clarence is thought to be a person who is technically a loser. He tries to take care of his mother, but his every day job is to sell weed to people and he has debts due to Jedediah The Terrible, who also happens to be the brother of Varinia, who Clarence is in love with. It’s a tangled web of drama in Jerusalem after all.

Romans are invading, led by Pontius Pilate, a non-believer who, like Clarence, just can’t wrap his head around the idea of God existing.  This is something that also confounds Clarence’s brother Thomas, who is his twin.  Thomas is one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus, and he serves his master with hope and giving and feels superior to Clarence despite leaving them high and dry to follow Jesus. Clarence’s mother and Elijah appear to be the only people who see the good in Clarence, who is now literally fearing for his life due to the mounting debt he’s been amassing.  Pontius wants to wipe out the people in Jerusalem, especially those who don’t look like he does.

After losing all of his silver coins to Mary Magdalene in that chariot race, Clarence hatches a plan to become the 13th Apostle and win over the people, gathering his own followers and stacking his coins.  He seeks the help of Jesus’s mother Mary, who says her son’s birth was a miracle and that his acts are not magic or trickery. Of course, Clarence does not believe this, but he takes her words and begins to prophesize around Jerusalem. He heals a blind man (Elijah…), and helps a lame man walk (who happens to be a friend he frees from prison in an earlier scene) but the people eat it up. Of course, this leads to trouble where Clarence just longs for freedom and admiration and maybe win over Varinia too.  With all of this going on, you know something bad is bound to happen, and of course, if you know bible stories, this obligatorily goes right for that blasted crucifixion…

There Is something very different about The Book of Clarence. The director, Jeymes Samuels also directed The Harder They Fall for Netflix in 2021. Fashioned as a broad comic drama, the film works on a lot of levels.  The acting and actors are top tier with LaKeith Stanfield joined by Alfre Woodard, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, James McAvoy, a hilarious Benedict Cumberbatch and a stunning Teyana Taylor among others. The film hits many moments of laughter as it works its way to the inevitable crucifixion we see at the opening.  The chariot race and a gladiator fight are both riveting and exciting.  An unexpected dancing moment set to The Jones Girls’ Nights Over Egypt nearly made me shout out with glee.  The different levels of storytelling all play as the movie goes on range from the comedy to deep tragedy.  The true story elements remain true. Mary Magdalene being stoned by the townspeople, Romans terrorizing Jerusalem, and Jesus being a figure nobody quite knows all ring true. There is also a very funny moment where Clarence goes to John The Baptist for a baptism that goes right for slapstick!

There are also things that don’t quite work.  I was fine with Clarence and Elijah selling weed, but it became an annoyance when Elijah spent so much time trying to smoke even when it was not the right moment to do so. There were also some slower moments needing some trimming, and an underdeveloped love story too.  Those things are forgiven though, because the look of the film is marvelous, the music, also by Samuels is beautiful, and again, the casting is phenomenal.  There is so much representation within the film that it also feels so much more accurate than the biblical films of the past.  So, for me anyway, The Book of Clarence is a winner.


NOTE: Stills are provided for promotional use only and are not from the Blu-ray.

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1


Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Unfortunately, The Book of Clarence did not do much of anything theatrically, and so it was relegated to a Blu-ray only release.  The overall look of the film is still surprisingly lush and beautiful, but of course, we always want a 4K UHD presentation, regardless of how well or how bad a film does! Luckily, this disc has a lovely transfer that makes 33AD look pretty spectacular. Overall, this is a very sharp looking 1080p presentation.

Depth:  Depth of field is handled lovingly. The film has a deep focus that works in it’s favor, with nothing appearing strange or amiss during the 129 minutes.

Color Reproduction: The colors of Jerusalem I feared would be dusty and bland, but a variety of opportunities within make for a much more lavish case. Costuming, lovely head pieces and Roman uniforms all have a nice color pop to them.

Black Levels: Nice black levels abound throughout the film.  I did not witness any crush at all.

Flesh Tones: As has been said, black is beautiful and the variety of beautiful people of color here really showcase that statement.  I love how lovingly the cast was made up, because it all looks so natural on screen.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean


Audio Format(s): English, Spanish, French DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Despite having a Dolby Atmos mix in applicable theaters, The Book of Clarence comes home with a 5.1 DTS-HD Mix, that despite seeming like a downgrade is actually delightful.  The original music sounds fantastic as do the sound effects in play.  Surround activity is managed well, and the soundstage is nice and wide.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: Music, that chariot chase and some weaponry can give way to deep bass moments, but nothing here is off the charts as it could’ve been.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are used with love for outdoor ambience, crowd noise and of course, once again, music.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue sounds excellent throughout.


Extras are on the healthy side for this release. We get 30 minutes of deleted footage and a few supplements about the making of the film, music in the film, casting the film and a gag reel.  You get the sense that all involved were very happy to make the movie happen and that carries over on screen also. Unfortunately, there is no slipcover, DVD or digital code.

Special Features:

  • Commentary with Jeymes Samuel & LaKeith Stanfield
  • Band of Brothers: Meet the Cast
  • Song of Songs: An Epic Collaboration
  • The Gospel of Jeymes: On The Set with Jeymes Samuel
  • Book 4: Making the Film
  • Gag Reel


The Book of Clarence may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked for me.  Jeymes Samuel pays homage to films of the past, but brings in humor, an almost Blaxploitation feel, and some beautiful visuals. Production design, performances, music, and pacing are all wonderful as well.  The film is not perfect, but going in this looking for perfection is a mistake.  Taken as-is, The Book of Clarence is destined to be an overlooked original, and while that’s sad, we gratefully have this Blu-ray release to take it in, own it and see it in a great way at home.

  1. No Comments