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The Crack Magazine

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The Novice

Director: Lauren Hadaway Stars: Isabelle Fuhrman, Amy Forsyth, Dilone, Jeni Ross, Jonathan Cherry This reality-bending portrait of an intensely competitive rower marks a fantastic debut for writer-director Hadaway. Isabelle ‘Orphan’ Fuhrman is Alex Dall, a queer young woman who, on starting at the foreboding-looking Wellington College, signs up for the rowing team. Desperate to best her teammates, and with no previous experience in the sport, Dall embarks on a punishing regime, pushing herself to the extent that the two hitherto tough coaches have to ask her to ease up. It becomes clear that Dall is addicted to competition itself, as evidenced when she insists on taking a physics exam three times after she underperforms, with new sympathetic girlfriend, singer Dani (Dilone), and sole supporting teammate, Jamie (Brill), cast to the wayside. Always on the move, the camera dogs Dall through her arduous routines with intense sweaty close-ups and disorienting sound design adding to an immersive and nightmarish experience. At times it recalls the psychological horror of Darren Aronofksy’s ‘Pi’ and ‘Black Swan’ as the single-minded and solitary Dall begins to lose her grip on reality in dogged pursuit of her goals. It’s an intense, sometimes harrowing ride, but immaculately orchestrated, while Fuhrman is extraordinary, somehow managing to locate the vulnerability in the almost feral protagonist.