[caption id="attachment_171500" align="aligncenter" width="1180"] By National Telefilm Associates - Screenshot of the movie, Public Domain, Link[/caption]
For many Catholics, the month dedicated to Mother Mary traditionally begins with crowning a statue of Mary with flowers on May 1st. Another way to celebrate Marian devotion in the coming weeks while sequestered is to consider viewing the following content. Only one of the suggested productions is directly about Mary, but they all illuminate different charisms of Our Lady.
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Mary as Intercessor
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): The film opens with voiceovers and a montage of shots looming above the town of Bedford Falls. Each voice offers up a prayer interceding for the beleaguered protagonist, George Bailey. The last voice is that of his wife, Mary (intentional choice of names by the filmmakers, I’m sure), played by Donna Reed, who sums up the prayers of her fellow townsfolk. In a pivotal scene late in the movie, after George melts down and leaves the house, Mary encourages two of her young children, Janie and Tommy, to pray for their father.
Mary as Queen
The Crown (2016-ongoing): In the first two seasons of the Netflix series about the current British monarch, Claire Foy plays a young Queen Elizabeth II, and we see her grow into this royal vocation of sovereign queen. The third season slots Olivia Colman in the same role in middle age, as she settles into her duties and displays more command in administering as queen, an office simultaneously anachronistic and relevant to modern sensibilities. The series reminds me of Jesus’ last act on the cross, to offer His own mother as spiritual mother for the Church and ultimately, following her Assumption, her as Queen of Heaven.
Mary As an Example for All Mothers
The Wonder Years (1988-'93): The ABC TV show was a personal favorite of mine, likely because my grades in school aligned with the grades of the characters in the show. Norma Arnold (Alley Mills) plays the quintessential TV mom, shepherding her family through the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s.
[caption id="attachment_171501" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Image: Netflix/Warner Bros./Icon Productions[/caption]
Mary As One to Turn to In Spiritual Battle
Wonder Woman (2017): Pray the Rosary -- it’s one of the best spiritual weapons to ward off evil. In the culminating action sequence, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) understands his role is to battle temporal enemies. He explains to Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) only she has the power to fight the supernatural. She subsequently outwits one of her supervillains, not with violence and force, but restraint and mercy.
Best Biblical Depiction of Mary
The Passion of the Christ (2004) [Rated R for graphic violence]: While the film’s depiction of Jesus’ final days divided crowds into supporters (I’m certainly one) and detractors, the character of Mary (Maia Morgenstern) united many Christians and non-believers.
Mary as shown in the Gospels, and in the film, moves about as a mostly silent, yet ever-present reality. She’s with Jesus every step of his suffering, culminating with her presence at the foot of the Cross.
I read one film theory that believes the film to be a devotional one: a story structure modeled off the Stations of the Cross and Sorrowful Mysteries, where the director, Mel Gibson -- whose past sins are well-known -- thanks Mary for guiding him through a difficult time. Perhaps, we, too, can turn to this film in our own rough patches.
Copyright 2020 Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C.
About the author: Family Theater Productions' producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., is a 2016 USC film-school grad and teaches Campus Ministry at St. Monica's High School in Santa Monica, California.