Novitiate (2017) available on Netflix


Critics Consensus: Led by a gripping performance from Melissa Leo, Novitiate grapples uncompromisingly — and ultimately compellingly — with questions of faith and feminism.

Movie Info

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.

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Margaret Qualley
as Sister Cathleen

Melissa Leo
as Reverend Mother

Julianne Nicholson
as Nora Harris

Dianna Agron
as Sister Mary Grace

Denis O’Hare
as Archbishop McCarthy

Morgan Saylor
as Sister Evelyn

Critic Reviews for Novitiate

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (21)

You can call Novitiate divinely inspired and mean it.

October 31, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
Rex Reed
New York Observer
Top Critic

A stirring, soulful convent drama from first-time director Maggie Betts features Melissa Leo in an Oscar-worthy performance as Mother Superior. The film is a potent provocation shot through with grit and grace.

October 27, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Novitiate is an intriguing if somewhat opaque movie, a feverish testament to the long reach and hard limits of faith.

October 27, 2017 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Leah Greenblatt
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Betts has succeeded in capturing a watershed moment in the life of the Catholic Church – a push to adapt that is, in important ways, at odds with its very origins.

October 27, 2017 | Full Review…
David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

It’s a faith-based film that’s about the actual search for faith – and about how often that journey leads us where it will, rather than where we want to go.

October 27, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

 Audience reviews

Novitiate finds room for all these viewpoints; appreciating the dedication it takes to live such a life while also questioning its suppression of individuality, emotion. This willingness to embrace such complexity is a bit of a miracle in itself.

October 27, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Christy Lemire
Top Critic
View All Critic Reviews (48)


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Reviews are culled from: Rotten Tomatoes.