Monday, September 11, 2017

TIFF 2017: Director Maggie Betts & Her "Novitiate" Cast

[Pictured left to right: Maddie Hasson, Rebecca Dayan, Director Maggie Betts, Margaret Qualley, Dianna Agron & Melissa Leo]

In 2008, I saw a young director's amazing film debut at TIFF. I loved everything about his movie and I remember telling myself, if it ended at this very moment, it would be perfect. Suddenly it cut to black and the end-credits rolled. I was floored. The director spoke to everyone who wanted to talk to him in the theatre lobby and I waited patiently to meet him. I finally got my one-on-one and enthusiastically shared my great admiration for his film. He was so delighted by my comments, he gave me his card. When we parted, I thought, "That guy is going to have an extraordinary film career." The movie was Medicine for Melancholy and that director was Barry Jenkins. That story comes to mind because after seeing the masterful Novitiate, I strongly believe that writer/director Maggie Betts is destined to have the same trajectory as the Moonlight director. 

Set in 1964 amidst the great reforms of the Catholic church, Novitiate tells the story of a young girl (Margaret Qualley) discovering her love affair with Christ as she and her peers endure their Reverend Mother's (Melissa Leo) wrath. 

"Love and sacrifice" is their mantra, but we scarcely see any semblance of love in the nunnery. Inevitably, we -- along with the nuns-in-training -- begin to wonder if their sacrifice is worth the price.

Betts handles her characters respectfully and although their devotion to God is intense, we never dismiss them as mere fanatics. Even Leo's sadistic Mother isn't depicted as a complete monster. She genuinely believes in what she's doing to make the young women in her image. 

Novitiate comes highly recommended and is confirmation that Betts is a new auteur to watch for. 

Coming to theatres on October 27th.


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