Mary Magdalene (Cert 12)
Directed by: Garth Davis Starring: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor Now released in the UK on DVD
We're often told how radical and inclusive Jesus' ministry was in the way he included women in it. However, even when we're told this, we rarely hear it from a woman's perspective. Well, thanks to screenwriters Philippa Goslett and Helen Edmundson, that's exactly what this film gives us.
Rooney Mara plays Mary Magdalene – a strong, independent young woman who leaves her small fishing village and family to join Jesus of Nazareth and his band of disciples.
At home, Mary is a misfit who can't wait to get away. But when she does leave home, she finds that she's still a misfit amongst Jesus’s disciples because she's a woman. But she sticks with it – and ultimately finds herself right at the forefront of the birth of Christianity.
The film is very beautifully shot with some eye-catching set pieces – right from its arty opening scene with Mary floating in water. Joaquín Phoenix is very charismatic playing Jesus, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is on top form as Peter, the firebrand who goes out of his way to make Mary feel unwelcome amongst the apostles.
At the end of the film, we're told how the "Mary Magdalene was a prostitute" myth came about (Pope Gregory started it in the sixth century), and how in 2016 the Vatican reversed it and gave her the title 'Apostle of the Apostles'.
Damaris Media have teamed up with the Mothers' Union to create a booklet based on the film. The booklet explores some of the issues the film raises – in particular about God's calling to women. It's available online and in print for church groups to use in discussion, reflection and prayer. See www.marymagdalenefilm.co.uk
George Luke is a journalist and broadcaster based in London