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Mary Magdalene


Stars: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tahir Rahim, Ariane Labed, Tcheky Karyo, David Schofield

Director: Garth Davis

A sincere, reverential, but alas too often dull Biblical drama, which reveals that the much-misunderstood Mary Magdalene (Mara) was not the prostitute of legend, and sets out to restore her rightful place in Christian history.

Thought by her tribe to be possessed by demons, Mary leaves her home and joins Jesus (Phoenix, giving virtually the same performance as in You Were Never Really Here, minus, of course, the swearing) and his followers, becoming in effect the 13th apostle, and pre-empting even Peter (Ejiofor).

Shot against natural (often rocky) settings, the film is spattered with occasional clunky dialogue - 'We don't live in a good age for baptists' - and frequently makes a sure cure for sleeplessness, quite apart from the fact that it's sometimes tricky to know what's going on, and the dialogue is often difficult to hear.

Nor is it all that pleasing to the eye, being shot mostly in shades of grey and brown. Under the circumstances the players do what they can with the words they are given.

Judas (Rahim) is allotted new and quite convincing motives for his betrayal, but Peter remains an enigmatic figure and the soul of Mary herself remains elusive. How anyone could have thought this was a commercial proposition beggars belief.

David Quinlan

USA/UK/Australia/Israel/Italy 2018. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by Arri.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Mar 2018