DIRECTORs: garth davis (lion)
STARRING: rooney mara, joaquin phoenix, chitwetel ejofor, and tahar rahim
REVIEWER: emily carter
A young girl from the village of Magdala resists the traditional roles of women in society, and takes the opportunity to rebel by following the newly famous Jesus and his disciples.
After a few creative biblical epics hitting our screens over the last couple of years (Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings), Mary Magdalene is a refreshing and real take on arguably one of the world's most known stories and characters.
Set in Judea, Mary is a Jewish girl feeling unsure of the traditions and expectations of women. While most women long to live as a wife and mother, Mary longs to escape. When she rejects a proposal and shows her distaste towards marriage, her father and brother take her to be exorcised, because they believe she must surely be possessed by demons to feel this way.
Her father approaches Jesus, known as a healer who has come to their town preaching of peace and a new kingdom. Mary goes to listen to Jesus and decides to follow him, captured by the man and his message. For a single woman to do this amongst a group of all-male disciples is unheard of, but Mary goes despite her family's objections.
The narrative follows Mary, Jesus and the disciples as they travel from town to town preaching to others and touches on many stories in the Bible of healing, all before culminating to Jesus' death.
Mary Magdalene is an intriguing portrayal that doesn't hint at or need to touch on what we in popular culture know or have heard of her and Jesus' relationship. Each character is incredibly "human" giving this "Biblical film" characteristics very different from any other I've seen. Seeing the disciples make many mistakes and Jesus often conflicted by what he sees around him really is a new take on the stories we've heard again and again.
Joaquin Phoenix achieves the many dimensions the film shows of Jesus, both at peace, tortured, revered and misunderstood. Rooney Mara reflects Mary with grace, if perhaps a little "blasé" about her truly unique circumstances. A little more insight into how strange it truly was for a woman to be wandering with a group of men would have given the story even more context for the audience.
The beautiful colours and sets in the film's Judea as well as the quiet pace made for a film that allows a whole lot of reflecting and deep-thinking, which I think it really does require.
Does Mary Magdalene mark a new age in the Biblical epic, not needing to be quite so, well, epic? This fresh take is a must-see.