“Novitiate” (Sony Classics)

Melissa Leo stars in a scene from the movie "Novitiate." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS/Sony Pictures Classics)

By Catholic News Service

At a time when the reforms of Vatican II caused some nuns to leave the convent, a wide-eyed young woman (Margaret Qualley) decides to enter, having fallen in love with God. There a rigid tyrant of a mother superior (Melissa Leo) lords it over her new charges, making it her mission to scrutinize them to see if they are up to the rigors of life in the order.

Writer-director Margaret Betts follows the novices as they struggle with faith, sexuality, and the effects of change in the church. An artistic drama with compelling performances, the film nonetheless reveals its creator’s lack of familiarity with Catholicism and ultimately takes a stand viewers of faith are bound to reject.

Strong sexual content, including full nudity, same-sex kissing, implied masturbation and lesbian sexual activity, one use of profanity, several instances of rough language, at least one crude term. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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