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Novitiate' Shows How Vatican II Hurt Catholic Nuns: BUST Review

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Novitiate

Written and directed by Maggie Betts
Out October 27

It’s hard to imagine a film that more thoroughly passes the Bechdel Test than Novitiate, a period drama about nuns coming to terms with the changes Vatican II brought to the Catholic Church in the 1960s. 
The main character is 17-year-old Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), a girl who has always been drawn to the Church despite being raised by an atheist single mother (Julianne Nicholson). By the time she graduates high school, she is convinced she is in love with God and enters a convent. Cathleen and her peers are first introduced to their new way of life by a nun in her 20s (Dianna Agron) who regrets her vow of chastity. Those who complete the introduction then enter a grueling year-and-a-half of nun training called Novitiate, led by the strict Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), a woman with a fondness for self-mortification and a hatred for what she calls “particular friendship” (aka sexual activity between the nuns).

Writer/director Maggie Betts manages to show the harm the Catholic Church did to its nuns without ridiculing their faith. Furthermore, Betts brings to light the fact that while Vatican II made many positive changes—like normalizing English Mass—it also drastically decreased the status of nuns, and therefore the influence that women can have in the Catholic Church. 4/5

By Erika W. Smith

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Photo and trailer via Novitiate

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