Don Reviews "Novitiate"
It is a little known fact that the brand of ales called Chimay is actually brewed by monks in Belgium. I kind of find it weird that monks make a beverage made with alcohol when it is frowned upon by the religion itself, but I also understand that they work and make goods or do services from their grounds to pay for the lifestyle and the convents itself, such as farming or laundry services. But the life as a nun or a monk is a mystery for a lot of people (myself included), with questions like what types of commitments they pledge in order to give their lives to and serve the Lord. For most people (also like myself), it is a lifestyle that most people would not be able to handle physically and especially emotionally.
“Novitiate” is the new film directed by Margaret Betts (Engram, The Carrier) and stars Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers, The Nice Guys), Julianne Nicholson (I, Tonya, Kinsey), Melissa Leo (Prisoners, The Fighter), Dianna Agron (The Family, Burlesque), Liana Liberato (Trust, Erased), Rebecca Dayan (Limitless, The Neon Demon), Chelsea Lopez (Blood Heist, Phoenix Forgotten), Maddie Hasson (Twisted, The Finder), Morgan Saylor (White Girl, Being Charlie), and Eline Powell (For Elsie, Quartet). Set in the early 1960s around the time of The Vatican II Era, it is based around Catherine (Qualley), who lives with only her mother Nora (Nicholson) after her father left them at a young age. Catherine ends up getting a full ride to a Catholic school, even though her mother is not very religious, which results in Catherine deciding that she wants to devote her life to God and start the process of becoming a nun. At the same time, there is Reverend Mother (Leo), who is resistant to the changes being implemented by Vatican II.
Except for a few scenes, the film takes place at the convent and its grounds, as nuns usually never leave the grounds. I did like how the outside weather a lot of times enhanced the mood of the film. There are three main roles: Catherine (Qualley), the Reverend Mother (Leo), and the instructor for the new nuns, Sister Mary Grace (Agron), and they all do great in their roles, as does the supporting cast. Qualley does very well in the lead and deserves recognition, but the huge shout out goes to Leo for her role as Reverend Mother, who does so well in showing the emotion and intensity in her role that her performance blew me away. I am officially going on record here to say that she deserves a nomination next year in the best supporting actress category.
This film really sucked me in and tried to make me feel what these ladies go through. Like I wrote earlier, the film is mostly in one location and made me feel like I was stuck on the grounds just like the nuns in a way. There are many times where the “trainees” and mentally tore down a little at a time, but when all those little jabs are added up, I looked at it as equaling one big punch. There are many times in this film where I thought I could never do what they are going through. It is rated “R” for a reason, with is a couple of scenes with brief nudity and a couple adult scenes where certain characters are confronted with “urges”. At the end, the film seemed a little long for two hours, but in its defense, it did not really drag. This is not a feel good movie of the year and a lot of tough issues are addressed. Even with that in mind, Leo does incredible and I will recommend the film as a Saturday matinee in the theaters.