Mary Magdalene

Out Now On-Demand

From the director of hit drama Lion, the story of Mary Magdalene starring Rooney Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus.

Constricted by the hierarchies of the day, Mary defies her traditional family to join a new social movement led by the charismatic Jesus of Nazareth. She soon finds a place within the movement and at the heart of a journey that will lead to Jerusalem.

Aaron-Yap2

Aaron Yap

flicks

The much-delayed arrival of a new cinematic Mary Magdalene could not be more appropriate. For this woke zeitgeist, it’s something to be embraced: the revisioning of a key biblical figure, too regularly marginalised in popular culture as the repentant holy harlot, from a more progressive, humanist perspective. That it was once a hot ticket for its scandal-ravaged US distributor The Weinstein Company adds an unavoidable, uneasy layer of irony to the whole project.

An Oscar hopeful with cross-over arthouse pedigree and an eye towards the lucrative Christian market, Mary Magdalene is a sleepy, polished, overly reverent religious opus, calculated to appease both secular and non-secular audiences. The Passion of the Christ this isn’t.

The film achieves the momentarily entrancing passage, whether it’s in the ethereal, lushly lensed topography of its locations, or the heaven-reaching sweep of Hildur Gudnadóttir and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score. As Mary, Rooney Mara can hold a piercing stare, though it only expresses so much, while Joaquin Phoenix plays the Manson-esque Jesus he’s probably been due to portray at some point in his career.

If Mary Magdalene emerges less transcendent and spiritually satisfying than it ought to be, it’s because of director Garth Davis’ tendency to favour plodding biopic literalness over ascetic restraint. The latter approach might’ve enriched its source’s tenets of faith and compassion. Mary Magdalene seeks to spin a saintly tale of unshackling patriarchal tradition, but undermines itself by absorbing few hints of the quietly penetrating, empathetic force of its subject.

Little White Lies

press

Although a rather elegant and serene interpretation of an eternal story, this film has little new or interesting to offer either to believers or non-believers.

Empire (UK)

press

An interesting new take on a very well-known tale and a praiseworthy act of revisionism, but one which doesn't ultimately deliver on its early promise.

Time Out London

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It ripples with interesting ideas, but the overall effect is glassy and inert, with Rooney Mara's Mary an oddly elusive presence in the film that carries her name.

Guardian (UK)

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Sets itself a bold task: to rescue Mary Magdalene from an age-old tradition of patriarchal condescension and misinterpretation. And yet it winds up embracing a solemn, softly-spoken and slow-moving Christian piety of its own.

Variety (USA)

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Hushed, deliberate and realised with considerable care and beauty, the resulting film has its heart entirely in the right place; its pulse, unfortunately, is far harder to locate.

The Times (UK)

press

Jesus is a stoner Messiah, with his woozy delivery and Kris Kristofferson beard.

The Telegraph (UK)

press

It goes straight for the forehead: it is a brow-furrower and a temple-rubber, best mulled over at a remove.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

press

A refreshing film, expertly made and acted.