Review / “Mary Magdalene” (M) **

THIS is director Garth Davis’s second feature, after “Lion”. And we know what a powerful story that told.

What we most know about the fisherwoman from Magdala is that we know very little about her. The screenplay by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett suffers from that lack. While it provides a basis for events immediately before the crucifixion, its explanations of the events leading to those are less than convincing.

It’s likely, and the film doesn’t confirm or deny, that she was illiterate. Rooney Mara plays her listlessly. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Jesus lacks conviction. Much of the film involves Mary and Jesus wandering through the countryside between speaking engagements, gathering followers as they go.

There are grounds for concluding that the timing of the film’s release, just ahead of the 2018 observance of its climactic event, is not coincidence.

Perhaps its chiefest virtue is that the visual details of the crucifixion are probably closer to reality than those that have preceded it in other films. But that’s little consolation for a work that, while respectful of its theme, does not really tell us much about it.

At all cinemas

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