Movie Review: ‘Mary Magdalene’

Review by James Lindorf

Director Garth Davis is back with his first film since the 2016 Oscar nominated Lion. This time he is working with Universal to produce and IFC Films to distribute Mary Magdalene. Starring two-time Oscar-nominated Rooney Mara (Carol) as Mary and three-time Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) as Jesus, Mary Magdalene will begin its theatrical run on April 12th.

Mary Magdalene has been one of the most controversial women in history, alternately disparaged as a prostitute and canonized as a saint. In 33 CE the free-spirited Mary flees from an arranged marriage to embrace her call to God. She finds refuge and a sense of purpose in a new movement led by a charismatic healer and rabbi. As the sole woman among his band of disciples, she defies the prejudices of patriarchal society as she undergoes a spiritual awakening and encourages change in others.

Rooney effortlessly embodies a woman who finds her faith and transforms from one of the meek into a believer who can inspire others. We first see Mary working a field, then helping a midwife, proving to be an active and valuable member of her family. In the end, she can comfort Jesus and inspire his most devout followers.

Being filmed entirely in Italy, by Oscar-nominated cinematographer Greig Fraser, made the movie exceptionally beautiful to look at. Mary Magdalene has a powerhouse cast with the addition of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter and Tahar Rahim as Judas. With an experienced and talented director, an amazing cast and a great look, the only thing that could hold Mary back is the writing.

This is supposed to be a film about Mary and her struggles with the politics of that time. She lives in a world where she can never be on an equal level with a man. A woman who wants to pursue something other than what her family has outlined must be insane or possessed. Unfortunately, like the rest of her life, Mary is regularly outshined by a man in her own movie. She routinely stands to the side of her film watching Jesus in awe. While it is great to see her impact on him as well as the apostles, the story never takes any risks and rarely wades into the depths of its main character and her path in life.

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