Movie Review: Mary Magdalene (2018)
Updated: May 16
Media Review: I am reflecting on some of the books and media I have reviewed as part of my research into the various views of the life and times of Jesus and his followers.
Director: Garth Davis
Producers: Iain Canning, Emilie Sherman, Liz Watts
Starring: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix
Release date: 2018 (UK) 2019 (US)
Genre: Biblical Fiction; Historical fiction, Christian history
Mary Magdalene is a two-hour movie available on Amazon Prime with clips on YouTube. Much of the action is the internal transformation of Mary's spiritual understanding. Mary is portrayed as a young Jewish woman who runs away from the marriage arranged by her family, wishing to escape destiny as a wife and mother. The family tries to exorcise the demons inside her that feed her desire to be free of the traditional role. Next, she goes to the healer, Jesus. Mary is moved by his teaching and inspiration. She opposes her family and decides to follow Jesus. Mary finds hope and a sense of purpose in the new movement led by Jesus.
However, Mary comes into conflict with the male disciples, who are already competing to be the disciple closest to Jesus. They have their own ideas about Jesus' words and how he will deliver Israel from the Roman occupation and religious leaders. As Mary feels more passionate about Jesus and his vision for peace and love, Peter is portrayed as being resentful of her presence in the group and how Jesus takes time to teach her. As events turn against Jesus, the confrontations between Mary and Peter increase.
After Jesus' death, Mary sees the risen Jesus but when she tells the apostles, they do not believe her; they show jealousy and resentment. She shares her understanding and insight that the kingdom where Jesus reigns is in our hearts. The film concludes with her as the only one to understand the message that God's kingdom comes as believers change the world one heart at a time.
The creators of the movie Mary Magdalene use the tagline "Her story will be told." The movie stays close to the Biblical storyline while bringing in ideas from the non-canonical Gospel of Mary. The film aims to correct the old portrayal of Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute or wife or sexual partner of Jesus. Instead, it portrays Mary as a close and faithful disciple with a superior understanding of Jesus' message and purpose.
Youtube trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d385fB-94aU
Pros: The cinematography is beautiful and the music score is award-winning. The character development and dialogue support the Biblical message that forgiveness, healing, and salvation come from Jesus.
Cons: According to the Bible, Mary was not the only woman disciple, and was not the only disciple to understand Jesus' teachings about the meaning of the resurrection and the new kingdom. The pace of the movie is slow, lacking in plot action or character development.