Critic’s Choice: ‘Novitiate,’ ‘Lady Bird’ shed light on growing up female and Catholic

Margaret Qualley in the movie "Novitiate."
Margaret Qualley in the movie “Novitiate.”
(Mark Levine / Sony Pictures Classics)
Film Critic

In “Novitiate,” Maggie Betts’ searing, sensitive drama of religious and sexual awakening, Margaret Qualley plays a young woman in the 1960s who falls in love with God and enters a convent as a postulant. The movie is a quietly riveting study of life in this most ascetic and cloistered of environments, overseen by a mother superior (Melissa Leo, mesmerizing) whose authoritarian grip comes under threat by the Second Vatican Council reforms sweeping through the Catholic Church at the time.

“Novitiate” is out on DVD and Blu-ray this week, as is the wonderful Oscar-nominated comedy “Lady Bird,” and it would be hard to think of a more appropriate or entertaining double bill. Greta Gerwig’s instant coming-of-age classic may be a funnier, gentler portrait of a girl’s Catholic upbringing, but it’s every bit as slyly inquisitive about the role of women in the church, and perhaps even more subtly attuned to the quiet presence of the divine in everyday life.

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