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Novitiate 2017



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Set in the early 1960s and during the era of Vatican II, a young woman in training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, the changing church, and sexuality.

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About the Novitiate 💬

The highly anticipated film is writer and director Betts' feature debut.

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 the life of the Church.


Had anyone asked me 10 years ago if I could ever see myself making a film about nuns, I probably would've told them they were crazy. I did not grow up Catholic. I don't think I ever gave religion much thought. About six years ago I stumbled upon a short biography of Mother Theresa (of all people), that decided to read on a whim, assuming the book would probably contain some kind of general overview of the famed nun's life. It turned out to be something very different. The book consisted of an endless series of painfully intimate letters Mother Theresa had written over the course of her life, all of which were obsessively consumed with her turbulent love relationship with her husband, God. I honestly didn't have a clue before this, that nuns are actually married to God. Nor did I know they literalized the relationship so intensely and completely, that it felt as real to them as so many of our own passionate affairs feel to us. I learned the one thing that became the most powerful source of inspiration behind NOVITIATE - that nuns are deeply romantic and intensely emotional people.

I wrote NOVITIATE because I saw in a nun's world a unique and profound way to explore the subject of the way women love. That is what remains at the heart of the story for me.

I had never heard of Vatican II until I began my research for the film. Vatican II is generally understood as having brought about a series of very welcome reforms to the Church when it needed them most. I had no awareness that Vatican II was largely responsible for wiping out a third of the population of nuns in a single decade. This was an unintended consequence that affected the lives of so many women at the time.

When I finished this movie, I had a new understanding of religion. I have now a deep sense of admiration and enduring empathy for nuns. Not to mention all the extraordinary sacrifices these women were willing to make, in the name of their love and faith.

Novitiate Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Maggie Betts

Writing Credits

Maggie Betts


Margaret Qualley

Julianne Nicholson

Melissa Leo

Dianna Agron

Morgan Saylor

Maddie Hasson

Liana Liberato

Rebecca Dayan

Eline Powell

Chelsea Lopez

Denis O'Hare

Chris Zylka

Ashley Bell

Eliza Stella Mason

Sasha Mason

Music by

Christopher Stark

Cinematography by

Kat Westergaard

Genre: Drama

Country: United States

Novitiate Official Trailer

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