The Novice Review – Riveting, Intense, Attention-Grabbing

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The Novice, from IFC Films, presents the story of a collegiate female rowing athlete, driven, dedicated, obsessive, determined to be the best, who undertakes an intense physical and psychological journey to make the varsity team.

The film begins with Alex Dall, played by Isabelle Fuhrman, rushing from her physics class to the first day of freshman rowing. The causal meet and greet introduction feels more like a set-up as the girls begin the practice session. After introducing the correct form, they begin to row.


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The team is separated into the friendly girls, the determined, and those who need the varsity team placement for scholarship purposes and Alex who is simply determined to be the best, because it is her personality to be driven.

With each failure Alex becomes more obsessed with shaving a few seconds off her time. She is second to Jamie Brill, played by Amy Forsyth, a recruited athlete that must make varsity in order to pay for college. A multi-varsity athlete Brill befriends Dall and the two, each competitive, feed off the other and appear to forge a friendship.

Soon Dall's passion and dedication turn to compulsive and self-punishment for her inability to be faster, to work harder. We find out she is a presidential scholar, on a full ride meaning unlike Brill, she doesn't need to make the varsity team.


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Throughout the film we see the dedication and razor-sharp focus it takes to maintain the life of a college athlete, while sustaining the academic excellence necessary to keep the scholarship. We also see an obsessive-compulsive female who narrows her focus on a goal and with blinders sees nothing or no one else until the goal is accomplished.

Dall, who is a lesbian, begins a relationship with her physics TA and suddenly the introduction of a third time consuming focus causes Dall to unwind. She begins to cut herself, and as we see, this self-harm is something she has done in the past.

Focused only on rowing she begins a grueling practice and training schedule, up before dawn, rowing singles alone in frigid weather until her hands bled, school, study, team practice, seat challenges, and still second. The scars on her hands, like the cutting scars, were a badge of honor for her effort.


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Intent on outperforming her teammates, Alex pushes herself to her limits and beyond, alienating everyone around her in the name of success.

The Novice, the debut feature from Director Lauren Hadaway, presents a gripping, frenzied, cerebral window into the life of a female collegiate athlete.

The nearly all-female cast deliver excellent performances. Isabelle Fuhrman delivers a surprisingly savage performance, attacking the role, seamlessly transforming into this unbalanced, unhinged, obsessed person.

The Novice is nominated for five Film Independent Spirit Awards including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Female Lead, Best Female Supporting Actress, Best Editing.

Intense, brutal, and attention-grabbing, The Novice is streaming On Demand.


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Country: USA.

Language: English.

Runtime: 94minutes.

Writer: Lauren Hadaway.

Director: Lauren Hadaway.

Producer: Ryan Hawkins, Kari Hollend, Steven Sims, Zack Zucker.

Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Amy Forsyth, Dilone, Kate Drummond, Jonathan Cherry, Charlotte Ubben.