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March 05, 2018 at 04:47 PM



as Sister Mary Grace
as Nora Harris
as Sister Cathleen
as Sister Emily
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02 hr 03 min
P/S 3 / 1
1.85 GB
02 hr 03 min
P/S 9 / 5

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Paul Allaer 9 / 10

Stunning debut is among this year's best films

"Novitiate" (2017 release; 123 min.) brings the story of Kathleen. As the movie opens, we are told it is "1964" and we get to know Kathleen as she is in a nuns' convent. "I was 17 when I entered the convent, 18 when I started the novitiate. We are all women in love." Wow. We then go to "Ten Years Earlier", as we get to know young Kathleen and her mother, and how Kathleen becomes interested in Catholic school, then the Catholic faith, and eventually the Catholic church. At this point we are 10 min, into to movie but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this is the feature length debut of writer-director Maggie Betts, And what a debut it is! Betts takes a close look at what the road is like towards becoming a nun, with a 6 months postulate and then the 18 months novitiate. These are all young women with an idealistic view of the Catholic church. In a parallel story, Betts also examines the consequences of the Vatican II reforms. The Reverend Mother who runs the convent is entirely opposed to any ref0rms. "Isn't the church just perfect as it is?", she retorts when a younger nun questions her. As one might expect, the pace of the movie is quite slow and deliberate, so this isn't for anyone in a hurry. At times it almost feels like a documentary. I was bowled over by it all, to be honest, and felt deeply invested into these characters. There are a number of scenes in the movie that will break your heart (the disbelief of Kathleen's mother upon learning what Kathleen intends to do with her life; the "chapel of faults"--I shan't say more...). As it plays out, one can't help but be reminded of "The Nun's Story" starring Audrey Hepburn (when asked why she decided to become a nun, one of the young ladies refers to that movie). The movie is helped enormously by several towering performances: Melissa Leo as the Reverend Mother is outstanding, but even better is Margaret Qualley as Kathleen (in one of her first movie roles--she is best known for her recurring role in HBO's The Leftovers). Qualley reminded me physically immediately of a younger Kirsten Stewart. The range of emotions that Qualley is able to convey on the big screen makes it very clear to me that this is a major up-and-coming talent, the last of which we surely haven't seen. Same can be said of writer-director Maggie Betts. If it sounds like I am gushing about this movie, you bet I am. This movie is for me one of the best I have seen this year.

"Novitiate" premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival to immediate critical acclaim. No idea why it's taken so long to reach my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati, but better late than never. The Saturday evening screening where I saw this at was attended very nicely. You could hear a pin drop, as the theater was enraptured by this film. If you are in the mood for a probing psychological drama that poses some serious questions about religion and faith and features several stunning acting performances, you cannot go wrong with this, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Novitiate" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Reviewed by Red-125 9 / 10

They only wanted to love Jesus

Novitiate (2017) was written and directed by Margaret Betts. Margaret Qualley portrays Sister Cathleen, who decides to become a nun because of her love for Jesus. She was not raised as a Catholic. In fact, her mother (Julianne Nicholson) considers the decision as a horribly bad move.

As the movie progresses, I started to believe that her mother was right. Young women who want to love and serve Jesus are systematically brutalized and humiliated by the Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo). In fact, the Reverend Mother appears consumed by her desire not to allow the young women to think. She also makes it difficult for them to bond with each other. She demands total and absolute obedience from all the women--postulants, novitiates, and nuns.

Then, Vatican II ends, and the Catholic church wants to modernize and change. Whether this is good news or bad news for the nuns is an open question in the context of this movie.

You'll have to see the movie to learn what happens to Sister Cathleen and the other novitiates. We saw this film at Rochester's excellent Little Theatre, but it will work on the small screen. As I write this review, the movie has a anemic 6.7 IMDb rating. I think it's better than that.

Reviewed by Hellmant 9 / 10

A lot like a female Catholicism version of 'WHIPLASH'!

'NOVITATE': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

The critically acclaimed religious themed drama, about a nun in training (in the 1960s) who starts to question her faith. It was written and directed by debut feature filmmaker Margaret Betts, and it stars Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Dianna Agron, Morgan Saylor, Liana Liberato, Julianne Nicholson and Denis O'Hare. The film has received mostly positive reviews from critics, and it's also garnered prestigious awards attention as well. I found it to be really well made and involving.

At the age of seven, Cathleen Harris (Qualley) was introduced to Catholicism by her agnostic mother (Nicholson), for educational purposes. Cathleen feels drawn to the religion, at the great disappointment of her mother, and at the age of 17 she decides to join a convent as a postulate. She's trained by the extremist Reverend Mother Marie St. Clair (Leo). Reverend Mother tortures the young women she trains, in an obsessive (outdated) belief that it will bring them closer to God, and she rejects modern reforms ordered by the Second Vatican Council. Her methods really put Cathleen, and her faith, to the ultimate test, while Cathleen also must struggle with natural temptations of desire.

The film is a lot like a female Catholicism version of 'WHIPLASH' to me, that's what the relationship between Cathleen and Reverend Mother feels like. It's very intense, hard to watch, and at times pretty emotional. Leo is also fantastic in the role, and I definitely wouldn't be surprised to see her get an Oscar nomination for it. The film is also a great examination of what faith and commitment to faith meant for these women at that time. It's definitely an interesting, and emotionally involving, movie to watch.

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