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‘Novitiate’: Film Review | Sundance 2017

Margaret Qualley and a bevy of upcoming female actors, including Dianna Agron and Morgan Saylor, play nuns in love with God at a convent run by Melissa Leo in Maggie Betts’ feature debut.

Although Cathleen is clearly meant to be our point of identification as she learns more about the order, Betts cuts away frequently from her to spend time with other characters, particularly likeable Sister Mary Grace (Dianna Agron) who instructs the young postulants, and the Reverend Mother as she struggles to accept the new “suggestions” (i.e. orders) from head office that stem from Vatican II.

Some, like Sister Mary Grace who bravely defies the Reverend Mother’s authority and at one point is seen tearfully masturbating alone in her cell, seemingly feel unable to conform to the strictures of the Church, especially the vows of chastity.