Mary Magdalene Review

Mary Magdalene

This may come as a surprise to some, but I used to be an altar boy.

Part and parcel of my Irish heritage.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I woke up next to a priest after a night on the communion wine… it was one of the conditions of my settlement.

Then again, maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you read – which brings us neatly onto the bible and director Garth Davis’ new film, Mary Magdalene.

Mary’s a woman who’s born out of her time, and into a world where women are treated as second class citizens to be bought and sold like cattle.

Good thing this kind of thing doesn’t still go on in oh so many backwards religious countries and cultures all around the world, eh… oh.

After spurning the arranged marriage her family tried to force upon her, and surviving the literal drowning of her supposed sins and demons, Mary becomes even more determined to decide her own future for her self.

Which is when she stumbles upon some holy looking dude with long hair, a beard and some magical powers.

Yes, it turns out that Jesus Christ – Superstar – was actually the first superhero of them all.

After witnessing the miracles JC can perform, Mary decides to hitch her wagon to his star – much to the annoyance of her own family

Joining Jesus’ travelling collective of male apostles, and the many negative assumptions this brought with it, Mary bears witness to her messiah’s journey and the entirely unbelievable acts that happen along the way.

As you may have already guessed from my cynical tone, I’m something of a lapsed catholic.

I believe in god about as much as I do the easter bunny… actually, that’s unfair on the mystical lupin as there’s at least some chance that there was an actual rabbit this children’s myth is based upon.

Still, if I spent my days trying to demystify the obvious lies that millions of mentally deficient folk desperately cling to, while closing their eyes to the very real problems that we face in stupid reality, then I’d end up as crazy as them.

Probably worse.

But I do believe in the acting powers of Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix, so was quite intrigued by the notion of an origin story for one of the few women in Jesus’ life.

Alas, Mary Magdalene is just another old wives’ tale – told from a slightly different point of view.

So there is no real origin story for Mary and this is not really her film; instead we get to see Jesus’ life and – spoiler alert – death through her eyes.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Mary Magdalene doesn’t have a story because she was a women, and therefore didn’t have the means or power to record her own truths.

Still, if you’re gonna propagate some bullshit about a man magically healing the blind and raising the dead from the grave, creating a fictional back story for a supporting character isn’t too much to ask.

There are some interesting moments in Mary Magdalene, most notably when Tahar Rahim’s Judas is explaining his own reasons for believing in Jesus.

And then – just as now – religion preyed upon the weak when they are at their most vulnerable, to sell them the fantasy of eternal life and being reunited with their loved ones.

All you have to do is give some preacher-man power – and material wealth – in this life, and you too can be saved.

I guess fools and their money are easily parted.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is largely wasted as Peter, who sees Mary as a threat to his own position of power with Jesus and the apostles instead of a kindred spirit.

By the end, Mary Magdalene feels like another pr puff piece to try and legitimise an outdated and archaic institution – and a hell of a waste of an impressive ensemble cast.

No doubt director Davis is a believer, but it’ll take more than Joaquin Phoenix in a toga to make this reformed altar boy believe in the chinese whispers of the bible.

Jonathan Campbell

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March 2018
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