Magical Mystery Tour: Mary Magdalene is Superior to the Mainstream, Faith-based Schlock Popular with Christians Today


  • IFC Films

Mary Magdalene is not a very accessible faith-based film, a fact which probably won’t bode well for it at the box office as it opens in theaters across the U.S. over the next couple of weeks. In the last few years, it seems like the production studios behind some of the more mainstream religious movies have created a successful framework to lure in churchgoing moviegoers and keep the product churning out at a high rate.

And while much of that product from studios like Pure Flix, Affirm Films and others isn’t what most cinephiles would say is first-rate filmmaking, there is plenty from which to choose — from classic Biblical stories like Paul, the Apostle of Christ to the onslaught of miracle movies (i.e. a kid visits heaven and returns to talk about it or falls out of a tree and is cured of a chronic illness).

As high on Christ as Mary Magdalene is, it still won’t gain the same amount of attention from Christian and evangelical audiences, especially since it’s not presented in an overtly inspirational way. Many will also deem it blasphemy when they learn three-time Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), who portrays Jesus in the film, is an atheist (like they did when they found out Noah director Darren Aronofsky didn’t believe in God). Nevertheless, Mary Magdalene is a beautifully shot and sincere arthouse drama that far exceeds the mainstream, faith-based movies believers are flocking to these days.

  • IFC Films

The film, which is directed by Garth Davis (Lion), stars two-time Oscar-nominated actress Rooney Mara (Carol) as the title character, a Jewish woman who travelled with Jesus and his apostles and was a witness to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Contrary to popular belief, Mary was not a prostitute. In 2016, the Vatican officially released a decree stating that she would be “celebrated liturgically like the rest of the apostles.”

In Mary Magdalene, we follow Jesus and his apostles from Mary’s home of Magdala to Jerusalem, where he was eventually arrested and crucified. During their righteous road trip, rock star Jesus gains more supporters by preaching the word, healing the sick and, in one scene that could’ve easily been pulled from a horror movie, raising the dead.

While Mary Magdalene comes up short on an emotional level, the film is poetic and understated. Davis treats the subject matter with respect and adoration and there’s never a hint of cynicism, which should satisfy those who consider the Gospel actual gospel.

As of press time, Mary Magdalene was tentatively opening at the Santikos Bijou on April 12. The film hits VOD platforms April 19.

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