MARY, DID YOU KNOW? Acclaimed actress Rooney Mara is cast in the central role.
THERE is a scene in the new movie Mary Magdalene in which Mary’s older brother Daniel (Denis Ménochet) almost drowns her, casting out the demon that has so obviously possessed her because of her refusal to marry the man her father has selected for her. It’s one of the most telling moments in this thin but provocative feature centred on one of the most complex, seemingly misunderstood women in Biblical lore. Mary is played with endless warmth and steely resolve by multifaceted actress Rooney Mara (Carol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Directed by Garth Davis, the movie not only attempts to rescue Mary’s story – (the lie that she was a prostitute persists to this day) – it highlights her humble origins and her virtues (the good-natured sister, the dutiful daughter accused of shaming her family by being headstrong and independent) and how she met the rabbi Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix) and made the bold, unpopular decision to become one of his followers (the sole woman among the disciples).
In other words, the Mary of Magdala that we encounter is a virtuous, kindhearted woman from a seaside fishing village in Judaea (circa 33 CE) who refused to be defined or imprisoned by her oppressive society. “I am not made for that life,” she admits.
Meanwhile, we get lots of open country and hilltop vistas, as Jesus, Mary and the gang (including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Simon Peter) trod from village to village giving sight to the blind, healing the sick, raising the dead, converting and baptizing new believers, preaching and teaching.
Unsurprisingly, the movie glosses over details of the Jesus narrative, but climaxes with Judas’ betrayal, the arrest and the Crucifixion. “We don’t live in a good age for baptists and prophets,” and older female relative tells Mary in an early scene. And, by all appearances, it wasn’t a good age for women who chose to go their own way. But, as the movie makes vividly clear, Mary had no choice: she had to follow her heart. Tyrone’s Verdict: B