When we think of devotion, we immediately conjure up religious bowing and scraping or I-can’t live-without-you love stories. Although Alejandro Amenbar’s Agora has shades of both, it centers on mathematician/philosopher Hypatia’s devotion to reason. Through vicious cycles of religious violence and shaky political justifications, her dedication to astronomy stays constant.

Set in 4th century Alexandria, Agora is not your typical aggrandized, toga-wearing, sword-brandishing epic about Rome. It is a film with very tangible characters whose decisions are more realistic than romantic. Rachael Weisz, excellently cast in the role of the pragmatic virtuoso Hypatia, brings an earnest lightness to the otherwise heavy-handed plot of Agora. Max Minghella and Oscar Isaac, who play Hypatia’s slave (Davus) and her student (Orestes) respectively, also give creditable performances as her admirers. The love triangle between these three characters is slightly strange, but refreshingly different.

Agora also pays a lot of attention to the tragic destruction of the library of Alexandria. There is a brilliant scene in the film where the Christians are about to destroy the library and Hypatia is struggling frantically to take as many scrolls from the library as she can, but her fellow pagans are more interested in taking the gold and silver. Little scenes like this one highlight how much knowledge and culture is destroyed in tyrannical wars and religious battles. While Minghella’s Davus and Isaac’s Orestes portray heartbreak realistically at other points in the film, Weisz’s Hypatia is heartbroken over the destruction of library.

If your love for the Greek and Roman film genre comes from the epic battles of Troy or from the passionate embraces of Cleopatra, Agora is probably not the best film for you. However, if you need intellectual stimulation, this is an excellent film to absorb.