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Mary Magdalene

The reverent feminist take on one of the Bible’s most-misunderstood women is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 48

Mary Magdalene was an important figure in the founding of the early Christian church — Jesus considered her so important that, in John’s Gospel, she’s named as the first person he appeared to after his resurrection. But she’s often been mischaracterized in popular culture as a temptress, or as Jesus’s lover. Often, she’s a foil for the purity of the Virgin Mary. She’s a woman who used to be a prostitute and is now a saint. Her story is a way to show the power of being near Jesus.

Mary Magdalene, directed by Garth Davis (Lion) and starring Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix, aims to recenter her in the story, aligning the tale more with the text and early Christian tradition than popular culture often has. The film has some of the same problems as many movies about Jesus’s ministry — it at times feels too ethereal to be about real people. But it’s still an interesting addition to the canon because of its goal: to not just tell a story primarily about Mary Magdalene, but also elevate the role of women in the early Christian Church.

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