Emily Parker reviews the latest Hollywood interpretation of a biblical character.

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is the latest interpretation of a biblical character to hit the big screen and be given the Hollywood effect.

Mary (Rooney Mara) is a young woman in search of a different life, beyond the traditional role of her gender at that time, but instead discovers faith in Jesus. She leaves her family, joins Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix), and his disciples, and follows them as they head out on their yet unknown journey towards the cross and Jesus' resurrection.

Iain Canning who produced the film alongside Emilie Sherman, told Baz Bamigboye how "he and his colleagues travelled to the former site of Magdala and met historians to help piece together an approximation of Mary's upbringing. We gathered what we could from an anthropological historical study and tried to bring to life the information we discovered." The result being that the film was beautifully shot in some stunning locations.

Mary Magdalene

The big three who play Mary, Jesus and Peter, perfectly capture their relationship with one another, showing they are a great team. Rooney Mara is strong, courageous and has a gentleness to the way she portrays Mary. Joaqiun Phoenix is an intensely focused Jesus, especially in moments when he is in the crowds praying and performing miracles. Chiwetel Ejiofor shows Peter's humanity and strength. The surprise for me was Tahar Rahim who plays Judas. His emotion is raw and real, in his inner battle during the loss of his family and then his eventual demise.

For some people the film will leave you questioning how far you would go to follow your faith and a person, even if it means leaving your family and all you've known behind. For others, Mary Magdalene is a reminder of how much the voice of women is valued today, but also challenges where women are still underrepresented.

Mary Magdalene

The film has been given a 12A certificate, but it's worth being aware that the crucifixion scenes are hard hitting and violent, as you would expect. There are similarities between Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ and this film in the emotion evoked as you watch the pain Jesus endured.

Damaris Media create free film resources for community groups, to discuss the major themes in a film. The resources for Mary Magdalene are made in partnership with Mothers' Union. You can download the Mary Magdalene discussion guide via the Damaris website. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.