Relationship is key in Magdalene film

Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene in Garth Davis' "Mary Magdalene" (Courtesy of IFC Films)

Every July for the past 23 years I have joined in beautiful celebrations honoring St. Mary of Magdala. To prepare for her feast this year, I viewed director Garth Davis' "Mary Magdalene" film starring Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene, Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter. 

Predictably, the movie attracted both praise and criticism. I loved John Anderson's positive summation in America: " 'Mary Magdalene' is in many ways an act of love, an effort to tell its story both freshly and honestly, with fidelity to Scripture." 

I groaned over Michael Ward's complaint about what he saw as the "glacial pace" of a movie that focuses more on the faith-filled relationship between Mary and Jesus than on the shazam of miracles, parables, or gory action-packed passion footage. This film's portrayal of the crucifixion is agonizing but there is no gratuitous glorification of violence a la Mel Gibson. 

While I concur with Sr. Rose Pacatte's opinion that the film is perfect for Holy Week, it is also a perfect way to celebrate this eminent "Apostle to the Apostles" on or around her July 22 feast day. (Another great way to celebrate is to download free resources from FutureChurch.)

Written by Helen Edmudson and Philippa Goslett, the film is both cinematically beautiful and well-grounded in contemporary scholarship about the religious and political context in which Jesus and Mary sought God and God's reign. 

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