McCann At The Movies: A Lot To Admire, But ‘Mary Magdalene’ Just Falls Short

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John McCann says ‘Mary Magdelene is a well-crafted biblical tale that just falls short of director Garth Davis’ standard…

Following on from the huge success of his debut feature film ‘Lion’, director Garth Davis takes on the retelling of a famous religious tale in the shape of Mary Magdelene.

This biblical biopic of one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood spiritual figures in history, tells the story of Mary (played Rooney Mara), a young woman in search of guidance.

Confined by the hierarchies of the day, Mary defies her traditional family to join a new social movement led by the charismatic Jesus of Nazareth (Joaquin Phoenix).

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She soon finds a vital place for herself within the movement and at the heart of a journey that will lead to Jerusalem.

Religious biopics have traditionally been somewhat of a cinematic gamble, lacking universal appeal and in some cases provoking the ire of dissatisfied viewers despondent at the portrayal of their core religious beliefs.

Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene.

The retelling of the story of Mary Magdelene therefore, seemed a strange choice for director Davis but he does however deal with the subject matter admirably and creates a motion picture that works for the most part, but just lacks that little extra to lift it to the same level of brilliance of his astounding debut.

Rooney Mara delivers a commendable portrayal of Mary, bringing her usual intensity to the lead role with the help of the enigmatic Joaquin Phoenix who is perfectly cast as Jesus.

Add in the incredible cinematography (the film being shot entirely in southern Italy) a haunting score (sadly one of the last by Johann Johannson) and you get a feature that contains a lot to admire.

The overdue retelling of the story of Mary of Mandala, is also one that restores this iconic religious figure to her acknowledged place and more.

Ultimately despite the film’s graceful intentions and quietly assured confidence the end product just about misses its desire mark.

However, it still remains a beautifully crafted film with some strong performances – it just doesn’t hit the extraordinary heights scaled by the director in his debut feature.


• For more of John McCann’s movie reviews, check out his Facebook page here and website here

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