Rated: R for language, some sexuality and nudity. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: November 16, 2017 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
Maggie Betts sharply renders a coercive, if off-putting (for some) look into how someone might consider a vocation committing to Catholicism.
The writer/director uses the reforming Vatican II era as the backdrop well in Novitiate as the status of women in religious order dropped, not to mention using English over Latin, and easing other venerable, archaic rituals.
An outsider and dissenter in the form of a teen - Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) - is a Catholic school learner spurred by an educator to enter a convent where she is a postulant on an onerous path to becoming an abbess; while confronting her effeminate self.
Nora Harris (Julianne Nicholson), Cathleen's agnostic mother, is nonplussed and troubled by this direction as the daughter has to deal with varying disparagement on this life conversion.
Longtime dedicated Reverend Mother (or Superior) grapples with the changing church while meting out stern authority to her wards. Puissance and disgruntlement are a part of another highly watchable turn from Melissa Leo (The Fighter, The Equalizer, Prisoner, Frozen River, among her many credits). Mother Superior's visage and words are clearly presented in a way attesting this Academy-Award virtuoso.
Auxiliary players mostly are of the bang-up variety, including Dianna Agron as the sympathetic Sister Mary Grace, welcoming the eponymous girls, and Denis O'Hare as Archbishop McCarthy. Ashley Bell's Sister Margaret initially suggests the prospects of cloister cohabitation.
Novitiate in today's secular world will probably have a certain finite following, but in Betts's hardy hands it's a sound nicety of an insular place many aren't cognizant for this experience and what it entailed in the 1960s.