Mary Magdalene chooses to leave her family behind in order to follow a new prophet known as Jesus of Nazareth, clinging to his teachings of faith and mercy.
A Familiar Tale;
With Revisionist Choices;
The character of Mary Magdalene is one that could best be described as misunderstood, having been cast as a prostitute somewhere along the lines, long after the Bible mentioned nothing of the sort. Here, we see her in a revised light, a figure defiant of the authority of the time, but one who clings to the seemingly new ideas of mercy and forgiveness. For a film that will probably be (if it hasn’t already been) accused of whitewashing and revising history, it’s refreshing that the writers don’t take the story in a cheap, romantic direction, and leave the relationship of Jesus and Mary as that of a teacher and a student. The issue is that the title is the name of the student and the teacher is the more interesting character. That may not be a totally fair assessment, in theory, because Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best actors alive, but the titular character never reaches the same level of compelling, despite a good performance from Rooney Mara. On the supporting side, Chiwetel Ejiofor does a very good job as Peter, but it is Tahar Rahim (seen earlier this year in The Looming Tower) who truly shines, stellar in the role of Judas. The scenery is gorgeous, depicting the beautiful ruin of the time frame and working wonders to help tell the story in a film without a reliance on dialogue. Johan Johansson delivers a wonderful score (sadly one of his last before dying), doing a great job of capturing the emotion of the story. The narrative itself, however, suffers from being a bit dull and the script doesn’t give Mary enough of a character for us to latch onto before she herself latches onto Jesus. Her family treats her like a saint one minute, and a villain the next, in a bit of exposition meant to rally the audience around her but comes off as clunky and confusing. If the script were tighter and more focused, this could have been more than an average film. The movie succeeds in questioning a woman’s perceived “place” in darker times, and seeks to inject some light into it, illuminating a clear path forward. The world could use more compassion and grace, and even those of us without a shred of religion can concede that point.