Spanning over a decade from the early 1950s through to the mid-60s, NOVITIATE is about a young girl's first initiation with love, in this case with God. Raised by a non-religious, single mother in rural Tennessee, a scholarship to Catholic school soon finds Cathleen drawn into the mystery and romanticism of a life devoted to the worship and servitude of God. With the dawn of the Vatican II era, radical changes in the Church are threatening the course of nuns' lives. As she progresses from the postulant to the novitiate stage of training, she finds her faith repeatedly confronted and challenged by the harsh, often inhumane realities of being a servant of God. Cathleen finds herself struggling with issues of faith, sexuality, and recent changes in life of the Church.
Margaret Betts
Margaret Qualley, Dianna Agron, Denis O'Hare
Margaret Betts
Screening Date: 
Oct 21, 2017
Sony Pictures Classics
Running Time: 
2h 3min
Average: 4 (1 vote)
Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor
25.0% 32.5% 22.5% 10.0% 10.0%
“An interesting but maybe extreme look at a girl’s struggle to become a Nun and a Reverend Mother’s struggle to confront change. The acting was marvelous. Melissa Leo is chilling. Her part was written so Reverend Mother has uncanny psychological radar to pick out and exploit the young girls. Remember the NUN’S STORY; the idea of DO NOT QUESTION AUTHORITY is so engrained from the beginning. Glad to see so many women involved with writing, directing, shooting and editing the film.”
“The acting was wonderful. I have always been confused as to what people find comforting about religion and why some seek supernatural violation for natural existential ideas. Religion exploits the good intentions of many and justifies the bad intentions of atheists. This movie offers nothing new, nothing insightful and nothing revealing about the process of being sucked in by this process. This film was self-indulgent, two-dimensional and silly. Religion/religious people do much that is good and which can be done without religion.”
“Excellent depiction of motivations and documentation of the life inside Covent.”
“Not sure if this is a film about religious devotion, misguided power, the confusion of youth, absentee fathers, absentee men, or what. It kept my interest, but just like much religion, I felt unfulfilled.”
“The movie felt more like an instructional video on how to be a Nun most of the time. Also I’m not Catholic and even I know the Pope is allowed to institute changes. And yet these characters are in denial and seem so close-minded. That said the only good thing in this movie was the acting.”
“Amazing film. My heart was in my mouth during those heart-wrenching experiences. I cannot believe the cruelty and power used. This is no different from other arenas where we are subjected to giving the orders and following the orders.”
“Torture to watch this depiction of the Catholic Church. Frightening expose of the treatment of women. Melissa Leo was terrific!”
“Stunning how this career choice presents itself for these young women. Interesting scenes of the young girls cavorting around the fire reminiscent of THE CRUCIBLE. When do these girls do good deeds in the world which is what I thought was the purpose of the Nuns? At times it felt like imprisonment rather than enlightenment. So many scenes made me gasp when the noviates are asking to share their flaws.”
“I’m a victim of a Catholic upbringing of 12 years of Dominican Nuns of whom there great teachers and others who made the Reverend Mother in this film look like a sweetie. I really found this film difficult to watch. Religion is the opiate of the people and this rendition of a cloistered order while flawed was all too painful.” Jeanne K
“What about the comparison to IDA? Very similar themes and both excellent.”

If you'd like to know more about the film...

'WATCH' to learn the dedication the lead roles put into their characters, and also how Melissa Leo always wanted to play a nun.

Read this interview with Maggie Betts on how an obession with nuns turned into the film NOVITIATE.

Learn about Mother Teresa's crisis of faith. Maggie Betts was inspired to create NOVITIATE based on the truth revealed about Mother Teresa's life as a nun.