Director: Maggie Betts (the carrier)
Starring: guy pearce, pierce brosnan, minnie driver, and odeya rush
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A 17-year-old trains to become a nun as the Roman Catholic Church undergoes radical changes in the early 1960s.
While raised in a non-religious family, Cathleen discovers her first and all-encompassing love: God. When offered a scholarship to the Catholic School, Cathleen's mother takes it, and there in the halls amongst nuns and good-Catholic-girls, Cathleen's undying devotion begins.
Novitiate is a huge and sweeping story that swirls you into a piece of history for Catholicism (Vatican II), the rigid expectations of nuns in the 1950s and the stoic training of postulants - all the while carrying you through the choices of Cathleen Harris. With massive, tidal storylines plus multiple smaller undercurrents, Novitiate keeps you beyond enthralled, if not completely torn in every direction over a mass of ideas and stories. After watching you feel the need to take a huge breath before analysing every ounce of an idea you just witnessed.
A standout for me was Melissa Leo who played Reverend Mother - a harsh, immovable woman who views the sisterhood as a group held closer to God that almost any other. She is an absolute force in this film that apparently reflected the views of thousands of nuns upon Vatican II (a truly world-changing event and worth looking up. It revised many areas of the Catholic Church in light of the modern world and tolerance of other religions). You feel equal measures of fear and empathy every time she appears on screen.
Unfortunately with so many changing tides in the storyline, it's hard to become dedicated to one or the other. I found myself swirling with thoughts on one plot point moments before another game-changer gets dropped in your lap. But there is always something to be said of films that have you thinking for days after viewing.
Sexuality, love, family, God, religion - all huge ideas wrapped into one weighty film. Prepare yourself to be immersed in more than a story.