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Review: Immaculate (2024)

Immaculate (2024)

Directed by: Michael Mohan

Premise: A young nun (Sydney Sweeney) takes up residence in an Italian convent. She miraculously becomes pregnant and discovers a sinister secret. 

What Works: In the 1970s there was a phenomenon of nunsploitation pictures which were often about women of the cloth discovering conspiracies, having sexual awakenings, or coping with corruption in the Catholic Church. Relevant titles include The Devils, Killer Nun, and Behind Convent Walls. Immaculate is a throwback to that genre. It’s essentially a paranoia thriller set in a convent and the movie has an unsettling vibe. It acknowledges the Catholic Church’s scandals and which gives the picture some credibility and the filmmaking successfully creates a vague impression that something is amiss. Immaculate is well shot and the visuals mix a sense of spiritual awe with an impression of paranoia. Scenes taking place in sacred spaces are filmed from low angles and with lenses that offer a lot depth which creates an impression of surveillance; images of heaven literally hang over these characters. Immaculate has a rich sense of place. Most of the action is set in an isolated convent where younger nuns are caretakers for elderly sisters who are near the end of their life. If the film is set in the present day (it’s not entirely clear) the convent appears to exist out of time which gives the picture a fairytale quality. The filmmakers of Immaculate are willing to shock the audience but the outrageous moments also possess a dark sense of humor.

What Doesn’t: Immaculate only runs eighty-nine minutes and it feels rushed as though whole sections of the movie are missing. The film doesn’t have enough room to breathe and develop characters or build tension. The lead character becomes pregnant without ever having been with a man and the clergy immediately jump to the conclusion that the conception is a miracle. It’s not a credible turn of events, even for characters of faith. The film’s biggest flaw is the characterization of Cecilia, played by Sydney Sweeney. She’s introduced as an innocent, earnest, and faithful young nun. The filmmakers do nothing meaningful with her faith and how this possible miracle might impact her relationship with God or the church. Sweeney’s performance is not quite right. She doesn’t sell the spiritual part of this and there are moments in which she breaks character, coming across less like a nun and more like Sweeney’s public persona as a movie star.

Bottom Line: Immaculate has some interesting visuals and a boldness that makes it a little memorable. It plays with provocative ideas but the movie is too thin and doesn’t do much with its concept or its characters.

Episode: #990 (March 31, 2024)