What might it have been like to walk alongside Jesus, back when He was alive in the First Century? Before most people had even heard of Him – before there was even a religion called 'Christianity'?
The new film, Mary Magdalene, imagines exactly this, through the eyes of one of the Bible's most misunderstood and neglected figures.
The story portrays Mary of Magdala (Rooney Mara) as an independent young woman who is troubled by the path that her family expects her to follow. Women in her society are supposed to marry, have children and look up to their husbands for spiritual guidance; but Mary feels a deep calling to a different kind of life, and a closer relationship with God.
After facing abuse from her family, who think that she's possessed by a demon, Mary finds what she's looking for. She leaves everything behind to follow Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix), a wandering Jewish teacher who performs many miracles and talks about a new way of living.
Unlike the other men in her life, Jesus treats Mary like an equal, listening to her questions and encouraging her. She begins to understand what none of His other followers have yet grasped: that His message is not about political power and destroying enemies, but about love, compassion and sacrifice.
Mary Magdalene is a surprising and powerful drama, transporting us to a time and place very different from our own, and inviting us to imagine some familiar stories through fresh eyes.
The film reminds us of the incredible mark which Jesus made on history, challenging us to look again at our personal response to Him. Even if, like Mary, we are not the kind of person who is 'supposed' to follow Jesus, He accepts and welcomes us, seeing us for who we really are.
Just like the very first people who heard Him speak, we can make up our own minds about what His teachings and actions really meant. Do we really believe the report – first made by Mary herself – that He rose from the dead? If we do, then it changes everything.•
Review by Damaris Media