Movie review: The Novice is relentless in his portrayal of the pursuit of physical perfection

Although presented in the form of a character drama, the novice is truly a psychological thriller detailing the compulsive and obsessive need that one can refine in his attempt to hone his area of ​​interest. For the central figure of Lauren Hadawaydark effort, Alex Dall (Isabelle Fuhrmann, devoting himself wholeheartedly to this role, both physically and mentally) is college-level rowing. The irony that such a sport is based primarily on the idea of ​​teamwork rather than individual success is not lost on Hadaway, and it is this parallel mindset that Alex applies himself to that undoes basically his hard work.

Major in physics, although she struggles to connect with the subject, student-athlete Alex chooses to focus more on the athlete quota as she falls dangerously in love with the physics of the rowing. Constantly seeking to improve her time and find his way to a prominent academic position, her obsession with the idea of ​​being “the perfect athlete” begins to dangerously affect her role as a student pass double and triple exams then she can get the correct grade needed to keep her in the sport.

Implement a mentality that is reminiscent of the intensity evoked through the film Whiplash, mixed with the metaphorical temperament of a painting by Darren Aronofsky, the novice is almost unbearable as it inflicts psychological torment on Alex and us as an audience, watching her helplessly grow more and more out of control. Even when she tries to participate in the normalist rituals of college life – namely casual sex with an interchangeable athlete who barely treats her with respect during their brief date – it feels like an act of self-obligation rather. than a real curiosity, quite simply a measure of “commitment” so that she can feel less guilty when she returns to her work.

Among the most triggering elements, Hadaway offers Alex the smallest reprieve with the bond established between herself and Jamie and Dani. Jamie (Amy Forsyth) is quite possibly the only other rower to give her the same sport as Alex. Knowing that she must excel to win the scholarship, their friendship is ripe with rivalry, and given Alex’s often questionable mentality, any connection between the two can hardly be taken for granted. More authentic, but just as littered with questionable intentions, is her relationship with Dani (Dilone), a teacher’s assistant with whom she got romantically involved. As exhausted by Alex’s obsessive personality as she is addicted to it, Dani is Alex’s closest thing to a sense of normalcy, but the film revel in his torturing temper that we already know is all light. ‘Alex deserves will remain constantly obscured.

A film that remains intentionally vague in its treatment of Alex’s psyche – one can only hope that she seeks help but never witnesses it in reality – the novice still remains somewhat relatable through the empathy evoked throughout. Surprising beginnings of Hadaway, cemented by a turn embodied by the magnificent Fuhrman, the novice does more than cross the finish line in his intriguing and gruesome take on personal accomplishment.


the novice is screened in select theaters and on VOD in the United States from December 17, 2021. An Australian release remains to be determined.

Pierre Gray

Film critic with a fondness for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror films, nurturing a desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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