Agnes of God (1985) Poster

(1985)

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6/10
Tilly and Bancroft good
SnoopyStyle12 December 2016
In the Les Petites Soeurs de Marie Madeleine convent outside of Montreal, sister Agnes Devereaux (Meg Tilly) is found with a dead newborn. Dr. Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) is sent by the prosecutors to determine her mental stability as they are reluctant to try a nun for murder. Mother Miriam Ruth (Anne Bancroft) is the leader. Agnes is delusional and refuses to accept that she gave birth.

Tilly is amazing bordering on madness. She has a wide-eyed persona that fits this character perfectly. Bancroft is solid. Fonda is bothersome. There are many ways for her character to go but she is taking the worst path. She is not pleasant. She doesn't feel like a doctor. Her strident character feels more like an argumentative social worker or an atheist lawyer. As a psychiatrist, she seems shocked by the delusion and lacks the empathy to be good at her job. Fonda's character is all wrong and she's playing it aggressively to its maximum. Then there is the main question which is left unanswered. It needs answering. This movie has a couple of great performances but also has glaring problems.
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9/10
A question of faith comes down to what is in your heart, not what is in your mind.
mark.waltz12 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
The rustic Montreal suburb setting adds a sense of mystery and awe inspiring spiritual power as court appointed psychiatrist Jane Fonda questions the alleged baby killing nun Meg Tilly over a horrific crime. Mother Superior Anne Bancroft is seemingly supportive, but she has her secrets too, slowly revealed through intimate conversations with Fonda whose faith has dwindled down to nonexistent years before.

The Broadway play this was based on was a masterpiece of stage drama, and in opening up the play to film has not improved its power, just made it more accessible to audiences. The three ladies are all superb, creating characterizations that will stick in the viewer's minds long after the film is done. Tilly is fragile, nearly child like, obviously suffering from a potential complete mental collapse, and at times, she is heartbreaking to watch. There's no soul visible through her pale skin and empty eyes which thanks to the photography and lighting, adds to her look which makes her mystery all the more compelling.

The two veteran Oscar winning actresses, Bancroft and Fonda, are commanding together, each individually creating characters that are powerfully written and pain stakeingly developed. With Fonda, it's easy to see that she's acting, never at one moment making you forget who she is as a star and actress. But Bancroft disappears into the role of the Mother Superior so tightly that you really believe that she is her character, and her conflicted belief system as it is revealed makes her all the more powerful to watch.

It's the small quiet moments between Fonda and Bancroft that stand out, even though the more fiery ones are intensely gripping. Bancroft is alternately funny, compassionate, sarcastic, judgmental and stern, and watching her switch from one mood to another without batting an eyelash is sensational. No wonder she got the leading actress nomination for this, and it is a difficult choice between her and the actual winner, Geraldine Page, who ironically originated this role on Broadway.

The direction of the legendary Norman Jewison keeps this moving at a tight and tense pace, and in editing the play down to 96 minutes, it has compacted what could have otherwise seemed to Stage a or melodramatic into something more intimate and compelling. Obviously the right choices were made in transferring this from stage to screen, and 35 years later that makes this one of the most powerful film adoptions of a hit Broadway play ever.
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7/10
faith vs logic
lee_eisenberg3 June 2019
Norman Jewison has spent his career making movies that often address touchy subjects: racism in "In the Heat of the Night", anti-semitism in "Fiddler on the Roof", fascism in "Rollerball", destruction of livelihoods in "Other People's Money" and the racism of the criminal justice system in "The Hurricane". With "Agnes of God", he focuses on religion.

Meg Tilly plays a novice nun who gives birth to a baby and throws it in the wastepaper basket, killing it. A psychiatrist (Jane Fonda) gets brought in to see if she's mentally competent to stand trial. Over the course of the movie, all manner of surprising things are going to get revealed.

As expected, Fonda, Tilly and Anne Bancroft (as Mother Superior) turn in fine performances; I wish that there were more movies with women in the lead roles. I guess that the movie's overall point is that there are some things that we can't know, and it's up to us to decide how we interpret things. It's far from Jewison's best movie, but he once again succeeds in looking at an important issue. Moreover, it confirms the diversity of the depiction of nuns in popular culture: jolly (The Singing Nun, The Flying Nun), silly (Nuns on the Run), serious (A Nun's Story), stern (The Blues Brothers) and even disturbed (any movie in the "nunsploitation" genre).
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6/10
An exercise in actorly tics...
moonspinner5529 August 2005
Young nun in a convent, so enamored with her Savior that she seems to be in a lovestruck daze, may or may not have killed an infant. Anne Bancroft is the Mother Superior, Jane Fonda is the investigating psychiatrist (every movie should have one), and Meg Tilly is the enchanting yet frustrating nun whom nobody can budge with common sense. Adapted from the kind of stage-play that doesn't go over well in high schools, "Agnes of God" (terrible title!) is sort of the flip-side to "Rosemary's Baby", an unsettling, overwrought exercise for thespians to display their range. What's amazing is that these actresses carve out interesting characterizations within the hoked-up, hysterical scenario. They can't possibly believe these goings-on, but they give it conviction, particularly Fonda, sterling as usual. Bancroft shines in one particular scene, again hoked-up, where she sneaks a cigarette; it's a cliché, but it's the relief the picture needs. Tilly is aggravatingly bright and beguiling. By the third act, the film has pretty much self-destructed, yet there's not much satisfaction in the answers given to us. **1/2 from ****
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9/10
Absorbing film
blanche-27 August 2006
After a nun gives birth, the baby is found strangled in a wastepaper basket. A psychiatrist is brought in to judge the woman's sanity. The film is "Agnes of God," based on the successful Broadway play and inspired by an incident that occurred in my home town of Rochester, New York. It unites three powerful actresses - Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Meg Tilly in this intriguing story of belief, truth, and perception.

Fonda is the psychiatrist who comes to the idyllic, French Canadian convent setting and first meets the mother superior (Bancroft), a nun with a few secrets, who is opposed to having Agnes, the young woman who had the baby, questioned. Agnes is a pure, childlike girl who hears voices, talks to spirits, doesn't know how babies are born, and claims she never had one. Is she delusional as the result of abuse as a child? Was she raped? Is she insane? The performances in "Agnes of God" are extraordinary. Fonda is brilliant as a woman of science who has long ago turned her back on God, and Meg Tilly gives a breakout performance as the translucent, innocent Agnes. The dramatic scene which ends with Fonda saying, "I love you...As much as God loves you" was one of the most moving in the film.

The powerhouse role, played on stage by Geraldine Page, is that of the mother superior, and what better actress for this than the fantastic Anne Bancroft. She is tough, vulnerable, funny, fierce and warm as a woman trying to protect her delicate charge from the horrors of the world. She and Fonda play beautifully together, whether bonding or fighting, as Fonda strips away the layers to find the truth.

It's so rare to see a film with three great female roles, and to see them all essayed so well in an excellent story. For this reason, Agnes of God is a great, provocative film that will keep you thinking about it long after it's over.
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9/10
A Nun Who Becomes Pregnant
sunwarrior136 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
A young nun's sanity is questioned when she is accused of giving birth and murdering the child in this movie entitled,Agnes of God. The movie stars Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly. It was adapted by John Pielmeier from his own play of the same title and it was directed by Norman Jewison.The movie is a is the story of a novice nun who gives birth and insists that the dead child was the result of a virgin conception. A psychiatrist and the mother superior of the convent clash during the resulting investigation.Set in Montreal, the movie opens with a very young, pretty nun being discovered unconscious and splattered with a lot of blood.

This is a well-acted film and soul-stirring drama about miracles that have said to happen and the clash between reason and faith.It is an excellent film that has a very tight script, plot and cinematography. It is gripping from beginning to end. It is not about religion but about the inter- personal and intra-personal conflicts of a psychiatrist, the mother superior of a community of nuns and one of her young nuns.Also,it is a provocative piece featuring virtuoso acting from its lead stars particularly Fonda, Bancroft and Tilly. Overall,it is a well-done movie despite its some melodramatic features and the fact that it left viewers many unanswered questions.
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7/10
Suppose the saints would have smoked if tobacco'd been popular back then?
lastliberal18 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A Golden Globe performance for Meg Tilly and Oscar nominations for Tilly and Anne Bancroft. This is a story that brings into question stigmata, belief, along with the possibility of virgin birth.

A nun (Tilly) has a baby, which is found dead, and she is brought up on manslaughter charges. She claims no knowledge of the baby or how to even have a baby.

Jane Fonda, an obvious skeptic, is a psychiatrist appointed to examine the situation. What is a to be a psychiatric examination turns into an investigation of the convent. Secrets come out bit by bit as Nancy Drew, I mean the psychiatrist, discovers the one secret that can explain everything.

But does it? Simple seduction or a miracle? It is left for the viewer to decide.

What is not left to the viewer to decide is the excellent performances by the three stars above. They were miraculous.
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5/10
Agnes OMG!
view_and_review1 July 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Wait a minute... so we got no answers?!?

At the beginning of the movie a Sister Agnes (Meg Tilly) is accused of killing her baby. The first and most pressing question was: how did she get pregnant? Obviously, not from a physiological standpoint, but from a standpoint of who?After a long charade where Dr. Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) plays doctor and investigator, we find out that Sister Agnes killed her baby. Oh yeah, and she's more than a little nuts.

As for who's the real father, which seemed mightily important, we never found out. I suppose we are supposed to believe that it may have been God or an angel, but I don't think the most fanatical zealot would believe that.

This movie was a 98 minute long soul bearing session where the doctor, Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft), and Sister Agnes alike could all bear the ugly truths about themselves and the Catholic Church's role in their lives. That meant a bunch of head shrinking, crying, yelling, BLOOD, and increasingly frustrating non-answers from the childlike Agnes.
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5/10
This film was a frantic "yoohoo!" at the Academy Awards....
AlsExGal2 April 2021
Warning: Spoilers
... because you have all of the elements of an Oscar nominee there. There is a crisis of faith, a clash of logic versus faith, an extremely childlike woman accused of a most horribile crime, and fine acting, and a release date at the end of the year 1985, when the Academy tends to be paying attention. Problem is that the script really fails to tie anything together.

Agnes (Meg Tilly) is a young childlike nun who, in spite of her seeming innocence, has given birth to a baby with the newborn found dead in the waste basket in her room, seemingly murdered by Agnes. Psychiatrist Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) is tasked by the court to interview Agnes and determine if she is fit to stand trial. She finds resistance in Mother Miriam (Ann Bancroft), who believes the baby was divinely conceived.

Livingston does more than just interview Agnes, as that wouldn't be a very engaging film. She turns in to the Canadian Columbo and unearths some unexpected details in the process that really have nothing to do with Agnes' fitness for trial. Livingston has long sense lost her faith, worn down by life, and by a mother who is in the throes of dementia and doesn't even know who she is. She is also dedicated to science, so this divine conception mumbo jumbo she is just not buying.

It is weird when Agnes becomes hysterical and then demonstrates the stigmata. But then I had an anti-vaxxer colleague once who had hysterical chickenpox after I told her I had a shingles shot. She had already had chickenpox as a child. Had I not told her about the shingles shot would she have broken out in hives? If Agnes had not known about the stigmata would she have demonstrated this phenomenon?

The reason I have a spoiler warning on this review is, after the plot goes in circles longer than I had patience with it, and demonstrates more secret passage ways in the convent than a medieval torture chamber, the cause of the baby's birth is revealed to be exactly what you'd expect it to be. Some peasant boy romancing Agnes, bedding Agnes - perhaps raping her, with the result being pregnancy. Agnes just wasn't knowledgeable enough about the facts of life to know what happened to her. Why some people keep saying that the cause of her pregnancy is left unresolved I have no idea.

I give it five stars as a fine demonstration of the acting craft.
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6/10
Intense
HotToastyRag30 September 2017
Jane Fonda plays a psychiatrist assigned to help Meg Tilly, a young nun who has recently given birth. With her baby dead and her memory lapsed, Jane tries to get to the bottom of the upsetting and newsworthy situation. Anne Bancroft is Mother Superior, and she resents Jane's presence. She and Jane clash at every turn, but the audience soon finds out no one is as innocent as they appear.

Based off of John Pielmeier's play, Agnes of God is the most controversial religious film since The Nun's Story. It's a very interesting story, but it might not be the type of movie you'll want to watch over and over. Jane and Anne give great performances, and the story probes the minds of those inclined to question, but for audiences who aren't in the mood for a heavy, draining play, you might want to rent one of Jane Fonda's films from the 1960s.
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5/10
Sister Agnes
AaronCapenBanner27 November 2013
Norman Jewison directed this drama about Sister Agnes(played by Meg Tilly) an innocent young woman living in a convent who inexplicably found herself pregnant, though the baby dies... Jane Fonda plays Dr. Martha Livingston, a court-appointed psychiatrist sent to investigate the matter, though ends up butting heads with the Mother Superior(played by Anne Bancroft) who has a most personal interest in protecting Agnes; the question still remains however: how did Agnes get pregnant, and who is the father? Meg Tilly is excellent, and outshines her two famous leads, whose characters start to grate after awhile. Though Agnes is a fascinating woman, the script brings up religious and philosophical questions it is clearly either unwilling or unable to answer, making this film ultimately unsatisfying, though Meg Tilly is radiant throughout.
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5/10
Melodramatic havoc at a rural Canadian Convent with Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly
Wuchakk24 November 2020
After a bloody scandal at a Convent outside Montreal, a court-appointed psychiatrist (Jane Fonda) investigates to determine if a devout, but hysterical young woman (Meg Tilly) is fit to stand trial, but she'll have to get past the intractable Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft) to find the truth.

"Agnes of God" (1985) is a psychological drama revolving around a Convent with a few scenes of Montreal thrown in.

What we have here is a mystery: Was the innocent & naïve Agnes (1) impregnated by God, (2) by some dude in the barn or wherever, or (3) a kind of spontaneous cloning or twinning. Concerning that last possibility: There are supposedly nine documented virgin births on record and the offspring were all girls who looked like their mothers. The idea that Agnes calls the baby "she" augments this possibility, plus the fact that she seemingly has enough faith to put holes in her hand, aka stigmata, why couldn't she split a cell in her womb?

I'm not going to say what conclusion the ambiguous film points to, if any.

"Stigmata" (1999) covers some of the same ground but is from the thriller/horror genre whereas "Agnes of God" is more mundane. "Stigmata" is all-around more compelling while "Agnes" is rather one-dimensional with women constantly confronting each other with a lot of screaming and crying. Yes, there are heavy reasons for these emotional dialogues, and those reasons are interesting to explore, but the story just wasn't gripping for me. Too bad, because Fonda, Bancroft and Tilly bend over backwards to pull it off.

While the movie didn't really work for me, it's a passionate and noble effort centering around faith, logic and ultimate reality (truth). And I have no doubt it has a cult following. Give it a try if the themes trip your trigger, but you might be a little disappointed.

The movie runs 1 hour, 38 minutes, and was shot in Rockwood & Toronto, Ontario, with establishing shots of Montreal.

GRADE: C
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10/10
Excellent All Around Film
Sylviastel7 January 2006
When Anne Bancroft died this past year, I remembered this film because of her performance. I can't forget Jane Fonda and Meg Tilly's as well. The three actresses really provided some of their finest performances for the camera. We are left with more questions than answers. But as we go through watching this film, we love Anne's role as the Mother Superior with a few secrets of her own and Jane Fonda as the psychiatrist assigned to Sister Agnes. I love the interaction between Fonda and Bancroft. They're professionals and they're good in this film. That's why the three earned Academy Award nominations. Finally a film about nuns that's not so demeaning or patronizing. Mother Superior joins the convent for her reasons or because she felt chosen to do God's work. Sister Agnes and Mother Superior's relationship is not so obvious to the viewer. YOu have to take into account every word of what is said between these three characters. You feel sorry for Fonda's childless lonely character as well. In the end, we have more questions than answers that are never really resolved but it's a great film and one of Anne's best work.
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7/10
Well-done, but muddled.
gridoon24 May 2001
This film is thematically interesting, to be sure, examining such conflicts as agnosticism vs. faith and spirituality vs. scientific explanations. But the result comes across as infuriatingly confused and muddled. The ending, supposed to lead to some kind of resolution, is a mixture of half-baked ideas that contradict each other. (**1/2)
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Interesting Little Film That Packs a Heavy Punch.
tfrizzell20 July 2002
A young nun (Meg Tilly, Oscar-nominated) is discovered one night with a dead baby and it appears that it is a new-born. How can this be though as the nun is supposedly a virgin and showed no signs of even being pregnant? Enter psychiatrist Jane Fonda who is sent to examine the highly mysterious and secretive Tilly. Fonda immediately locks horns with mother superior Anne Bancroft (Oscar-nominated) as Bancroft feels that the outside world has no right to disturb anyone in the convent. Fonda tries to help Tilly who appears to have a problem distinguishing between reality and fantasy. A really tense film that will keep you guessing until the very end. The screenplay is smart and Norman Jewison does another fine directing job here. The film is flawed in many areas and could even be considered very negative towards the Catholic Church, but it is still a production that is worth a look. 4 stars out of 5.
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7/10
My brief review of the film
sol-7 March 2005
A somewhat interesting yet always rather ordinary nunnery mystery film, it suffers from a poor execution of thought provoking ideas, and being never really clear about anything in the end leaves the film unsatisfying overall. But the film nevertheless has enough to keep one watching with Meg Tilly being a particular virtue to it. She plays the part of a child-like naive and altruistic nun so well that she is able to light up every scene she is in. And, she is the best-remembered part of the whole production afterwards. Her performance is not enough reason to go out and see this, but it is enough reason to keep watching it throughout its duration if the film is on the menu anyway.
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6/10
a movie that tries to get drama from "The exorcist" territory
funkyfry10 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
**********SPOILERS***********

A nun (Tilly) gives birth to a baby, which is found strangled in her wastebasket. Psychiatrist Fonda is brought in to investigate whether she is insane, and begins to suspect that her mother superior (Bancroft) or someone else may have known about the baby and share the guilt for its murder. More a multiple character study than a mystery, the development of Fonda and Bancroft's rocky relationship is the best thing about this sincere movie. Unfortunately, they dwelled a bit too much on the "supernatural" possibilites, creating an unconvincing side plot that is too sensational.
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9/10
Exemplary Film-making
jzappa26 June 2007
First off, Jane Fonda is a wonderful, riveting actress who packs a punch with every performance. In Agnes of God, she delivers on a very personal level, portraying a character very close to herself and bringing passion to the screen. She is also, in her early fifties, looking so loin-scorchingly beautiful that I could hardly restrain myself at times. Despite her wardrobe, depicting a woman who doesn't care to exhibit so loudly her heart-poundingly, blood-throbbingly luscious body, she magnetizes any heterosexual libido watching this film. Now that that's been made clear, I'll return to more practical comments upon this movie.

Meg Tilly makes you wonder why her sister is more popular and still working these days. She is haunting as a nun who in mind and spirit is still a naive and innocent little girl, overloaded with imagination and shame for every presentation of any of the realities of being a woman. Each actress in the film matches the other, but only Tilly disturbs us and rocks our emotions.

Anne Bancroft, in maybe her best performance short of The Graduate, is wonderful because of how realistic her character is, the sad woman whose present situation brings peace but does not hinder the edge she's developed from life. Her scenes with Fonda are riveting, despite the stage-like speed at which they exchange dialogue which hardly has the effect on screen as it would in the original play. The two actresses develop a swaying arch that lasts throughout the movie, as they meet, and no matter how much they disagree and fight, can still find that one moment in the gazebo where they can connect on a relatively comfortable level. They only hate each other because of what the other represents to the other's desperately fixed opinion, and if things were different, they could get along just like anyone else. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a relationship like that done so well and so clearly in a movie before. It's a rare and odd sort of occurrence and in life that isn't often recognized, and those two actresses performed it with the sharp perception that makes them two of the greatest actresses of the 1960s through the '80s.

Agnes of God is directed by Norman Jewison with a sort of effect that films rarely live up to. I don't know if I would call it one of my favorite films, but I would call it a film that sets a perfect example of effective, atmospheric, emotional film-making. Jewison's use of director of photography Sven Nykvist, of Ingmar Bergman fame, gives the film the visual moods it has that Jewison subtly projects on us. Every prop, setting, and landscape is old, almost antique-like, and therein lies feeling and atmosphere. There's a sense of history that is never spoken of. Georges Delerue's music is so packed with weeping, heart-sinking emotion that because of it, tears will strain your eyes. The film is so subtle in its workings, especially on Jewison's handling of the cinematography and music. The music will slowly sneak into a scene and you will hardly notice it's entrance, and it will pack a scene with tension or passion or even fear in any combination of warmth, sneakiness, and atmosphere. The film entrances you because of these subtleties. Jewison will focus so deeply on one setting that it's an entire universe for us, and when a new scene takes place somewhere else, it's jolting. What a sad, powerful, atmospheric film. I cried so hard.
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5/10
"Ignorance Is Next To Virginity!" - (Movie Quote)
strong-122-4788858 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Neither loving it, nor loathing it - 1985's "Agnes Of God" was one of those "not-quite-satisfying" films that (because of its in-your-face, religious subject matter) had me sitting on the fence when it came to offering up a rational and fair-minded opinion about it.

And, of course, while watching Agnes Of God, the following question continually came to mind - Was Agnes, in actuality, a bona-fide flake, or was she, in fact, really, truly for real?

And just like me riding the fence in my opinion of said-movie - I'd say that this film's screenwriters also chose to ride the fence, as well - Yes. All the way to the story's ending - Never, ever giving the viewer a "yes" or a "no" answer regarding the true state of Agnes's mental stability.

For the most part, Agnes Of God's story did keep its head above water in the realm of intelligence - But, when it came down to its insinuation of an honest-to-goodness "immaculate conception" (regarding Agnes's murdered baby girl), the viewer really had no choice but to take the entire story's validity with a rather large grain of salt.

All-in-all - In spite of its numerous flaws and gaping plot-holes - Agnes Of God's religiously disturbing story did, indeed, offer up strong performances from its 3 principal actresses - Anne Bancroft, Meg Tilly and Jane Fonda.

Believe me, this was definitely one of those films that one has to see for themselves so that they, in turn, can form their own judgements on its somewhat controversial subject matter.
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9/10
While AGNES OF GOD is an excellent film .Intense source material really gets under ones/my skin.
robfollower18 February 2019
While AGNES OF GOD is an excellent film . The convoluted extraordinary , intense source material really gets under ones/my skin. Meg Tilly plays a young nun who secretly gives birth to a baby; the child's body is later found strangled to death. Court-appointed psychiatrist Jane Fonda is sent to the convent to investigate, a task made difficult by the weathervane behavior of mother superior Anne Bancroft. To draw out Tilly, who remembers nothing of the birth, Fonda suggests that hypnosis is called for. Playwright Pielmeier poses many questions--is Tilly a pure-and-simple murderess, or was there something "divine" in her act?--but offers frustratingly few answers.

It is Meg Tilly who makes the movie live. Her performance, which works on both realistic and symbolic levels, allows you to believe in the story. Psychiatrist Jane Fonda and mother superior Anne Bancroft round out the excellent acting. All three stars do smart, honorable work. Controversial religion themed story worth seeing; based on stage success. Just be ready to brace yourself this was a powerful film dealing with innocence and guilt and faith versus skepticism in a wholly believable manner.
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Hollywood-ized and not that good
Boyo-28 January 2002
I saw the play on Broadway with Geraldine Page as Mother Miriam, Elizabeth Ashley and Amanda Plummer. It was very powerful.

The movie is less so and feels a little too much like a cheap thriller.

Oh, look, now let's uncover another little secret. A nun whispers to Fonda 'Look at the files', and she may as well be wearing an overcoat and a beret. In the files, Fonda finds out some more and then more than that later on, none of which matters to the actual plot.

Bancroft is a little too cute at times but manages to be believable. Fonda's best scenes are with her Mother, played by Anne Pitoniak, who originated the Mother role in "'night, Mother", which Bancroft also played on film.

The shining star is Meg Tilly, who is fantastic, and who was robbed of an Oscar by the sentiment for Angelica Huston. Huston was not bad in "Prizzi's Honor" but certainly not Oscar-worthy. Tilly played a difficult role with skill far beyond her years.
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4/10
A very long cigarette commercial
ArtVandelayImporterExporter25 September 2019
How much did Jane Fonda get paid for smoke in every scene? I mean, holy smokes, this isn't 1940, this is 1985. Even the cigarette companies weren't pretending anymore. The entire world knew cigarettes were killing people at record rates. Yet we have a scene where Fonda and Bancroft are yukking it up about all the historical moral people who would have banged back the death sticks had they been invented back in the day. As for the acting, there's more ham than an Easter Sunday dinner in this one. Fonda and Bancroft are constantly spouting Deep Thoughts but neither seems like a real person. Tilly really nailed it, though. Whenever she's on the screen I had hope the movie would be worthwhile but the agents for Fonda and Bancroft probably negotiated ''equal screen time" clauses in their contacts. And then we get to the hypnotism scene. If there's anything more scientifically bogus than psychiatry it's hypnotism. If you have to write a hypnotism scene into your movie to get some key plot reveals you're a hack writer. I almost burst out laughing.
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10/10
One very powerful movie
richard-178716 August 2021
This movie starts with a well-crafted script. It was given to three fine actresses who gave three first-rate performances, directed by someone who really knew what he was doing.

The result is a movie that is sometimes painfully difficult to watch, but never anything less than riveting. It's a murder mystery of sorts, but you know who the killer is from the start of the movie - despite occasional efforts to doubt what you know. The mystery therefore is not who did the killing, but why. In the course of finding out, we learn a lot about the three main characters, and much of it is not pretty.

Watch it for three absolutely first-rate performances.
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6/10
Whodunit?
nycritic1 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's got to be something of an inconvenience for a young woman who's devoted her life to serve Him and she finds out that He's places a nasty little trick on her. That's the postulate that AGNES OF GOD, a thriller with a lot of religion and atheism thrown in for good tension, tries to present and pass off without a hitch. The main problem is, that could have been acceptable, had it not introduced a human element -- the possibility of a crime -- into the mix. The crime in question? A young nun's baby, dead under mysterious circumstances, the ensuing investigation which points at clues which seem to point at darker elements, the appearance of the non-believing psychiatrist, played by Jane Fonda who is determined to get to the root of the matter despite the protests of the Mother Superior, played by Anne Bancroft as a woman who abandoned her previous life of worldly pleasures for one of introspection. AGNES OF GOD benefits by these two actresses who play against and with each other grandly, but Meg Tilly's performance is somehow uneven and borders on thankless even when she is the nun caught in the middle of this crux (pun intended). I can't say I was satisfied with the way it wrapped up its mystical dilemma, but there it is, existing, daring you to watch it and make up your own conclusions as to what is valid under the aegis of the Maker.
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8/10
An engaging drama with an strong plot hook
Mysteries arise because there's a lack of understanding as to how something happened. Depending on the situation, the mystery may be present due to the absence of witnesses. Or if people were around, the logical understanding behind what happened may not make sense. However, things can get even more baffling when it comes to faith based mysteries. The reason for this being that some may not feel there are logical answers to such phenomena. This unfortunately, becomes hard to make a case during court trials, paperwork and other such legal processes. That leads us to this particular film which deals with such a unique scenario that does not have an easily discernible answer.

The story originally written for stage plays, is about novice nun Agnes (Meg Tilly) who is found with a dead newborn in her convent. The head of the convent, Mother Miriam Ruth (Anne Bancroft) is assigned psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingston (Jane Fonda) to understand how such an event could have happened. Along the way, Livingston begins to learn more and more about what happened and just how much she relates to the setting around her. The screenplay was adapted by the same person who the wrote the play, John Pielmeier. Together, he and director Norman Jewison make a film that not only raises good questions, but really makes the audience think.

What makes the story so interesting to watch is seeing the clashing ideologies between Dr. Livingston and Mother Ruth. One is a trained psychiatrist, who looks to logic for answers. Solid, irrefutable evidence that allows one to solve such a strange anomaly. The other is a believer of God and feels sometimes things are not so easily explainable. Pitted between the two is sister Agnes, who remembers certain things, while other times doesn't remember the whole story. What's even more important is that while there is closure, there are moments left up to the audiences' interpretation. Giving the story another level of depth when it comes how things actually happened and why. The only part that doesn't really add up is just how the pivotal discovery was handled in such a short window of time.

The cast to this film is a mix of American and Canadian actors. All of which have credible acting skills. Jane Fonda and Anne Bancroft both act very well in this feature. Their characters have an interesting dynamic considering their histories. Fonda is known for her roles in Barefoot in the Park (1967) and Coming Home (1978). While Bancroft is known for her roles in The Graduate (1967) and The Elephant Man (1980). Meg Tilly as Agnes also gives a captivating performance as the main focus of the investigation. She not only is a tragic character, but a troubled one. At the time Tilly's best known role was in Psycho II (1983). There's also appearances from Gratien Gélinas, Guy Hoffmann and Deborah Grover.

Visually speaking, the film has lots to offer. While the movie is by no means in the horror genre, there are some horrific scenes that involve blood that nobody should go through. Aside from this though, the shots whether it be internal or external are filmed well. Behind the camera was Sven Nykvist, who would also go on to help film Chaplin (1992). As for music, the sound was brought in by French composer Georges Delerue. Seeing that many films that involve religion tend to lend more vocals, Delerue ops to evenly blend this with romanticized orchestra. The tone is tragic and beautiful simultaneously and deserves a listen.

There's very little to find confusing about the story told here. Aside from one bit related to timing, the premise is a solid one that not only questions believers, but non-believers. Thanks to strong acting, emotional music and skilled cinematography, this film will keep its viewers watching with intrigue.
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