by Georgia Luckhurst, Montgomery Jones, Dee Putri, and Elisabed Gedevanishvili
When a teenage girl says she’s the victim of a secret network called The Sisterhood of Night, a quiet suburban town becomes the backdrop for a modern-day Salem witch trial.
Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser, “The Sisterhood of Night” follows a group of high school girls whose secret society – led by the charismatic Mary Warren, the creative Catherine Huang, and the shy Lavinia Hall – attracts unexpected national attention after accusations of the group committing sexual abuse are published on a fellow student, Emily Parris’, blog.
The film intends to raise some very valid questions about how society polices young girls’ sexuality and friendship, as well as the influence the internet has on today’s adolescents and the degree to which it dictates how we live our lives as well as creating fantasies that impede on our reality. How successfully did “The Sisterhood of Night” deliver? Montgomery, Georgia, Dee, and Elisabed discuss.
GEORGIA: What I liked about the film was that it represented close friendship between girls in a way that I hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before. In particular Mary and Catherine’s relationship resembled my own with my three best friends. I also loved how the film tried to address the way in which our society polices girls’ friendships, and how it sexualizes those bonds in order to create rifts and remind girls that their thoughts, feelings, and ways of being are public property. That issue could definitely have been explored more – it’s not a conversation that’s easy to have in an hour and a half’s worth of movie! – and I wish the film had made more of an argument for the extent to which teenage girls have a right to privacy and self-expression. We’re so often ridiculed by society’s lack of respect, for, for example, pastimes like diary writing or blogging, and I’d like to have seen that explored instead of some of the side plots, like an alleged teacher-student relationship that proves untrue.
I think what’s clear about “The Sisterhood of Night” is that it was made with such great feminist intentions which don’t normally come into big movie productions, but it can’t be said to have entirely pulled off all the goals it set out to achieve. Overall I can say I really did enjoy the film, and I will encourage my friends to see it, but it’s the sort of movie that requires a lot of deconstruction after having seen it just to mull over all the different plot lines and questions it’s trying to raise.
MONTGOMERY: I actually enjoyed the added storyline of the sexualization of the relationship between the counselor and Mary. I wish the film had somehow expanded on that in some way. It raised the question, is it possible for the a young woman and a grown man to have a completely platonic relationship without assumptions being made? Or were the circumstances too representational of anything but? Then there was the question of guilt. Are those accused, convicted by the public if enough people point the finger? Does innocent until proven guilty still apply?
Overall though, I thought it played out like an overcomplicated Lifetime movie. The film would have done well to let many of the moments speak for themselves, but instead it felt like it was underestimating the viewer’s understanding. There were singular powerful moments that would have done well with little explanation, scenes that could have artfully represented the insatiable appetite the media has for a hyperbolic story but the issue was, those moments were clouded by this monster of a plot that didn’t fit. Sometimes simplicity is the way to go. So much can be said about a group of girls just hanging out and getting all the preconceived notions tacked on to them. But the weird group that attacked Lavinia, the blog, the press, the counselor, all of it together was a lot to handle.
DEE: I quite liked the movie–I can relate how life is so confusing at that age. There are so many pressures from parents and friends. The Sisterhood is about girls who share their deepest secrets and believe that the other sisterhood members would keep it as secret–I think it is such a relief when we can say what we really want to say without being judged. I mean, teenagers tend to say those things on social media, which often lead to be judged by others. Did you read early Rookie stuff? I thought the film had a very Rookie vibe: the clothes, the sisterhood, the DIY.
Also, I think I can try to explain Lavinia. I mean, my point of view. I think that Lavinia is a shy girl, who Mary thought that needed the Sisterhood. She has her own issues, like, her mom always has a different boyfriend, and she feels that she’s not normal because she doesn’t have her dad around. My parents are divorced, so I can relate to that. Being 16-17 years old is the most confusing time–we’re teenagers and we have so much angst! We try to figure things out. And when Lavinia fell in love with a boy, it was confusing for her: she didn’t think that the boy would like her back, but it seems easy for her mom to find boyfriend(s). Also, there are some gap between Lavinia and her mom. They’re not that close and Lavinia has to try to figure things out all by herself. But then, after the Halloween, she just can’t take it anymore. It was just too much pressure.
ELI: I thought the movie had a great message for the viewers. I, myself, as a thirteen year old used to be in a similar sisterhood. The only exception was that no one ever accused us of anything… maybe because I was in a totally different country? Maybe, if I were in the United States, instead of Georgia, my friends and I would be exposed to same things that Mary, Lavinia, and Catherine were? Might our whisperings and our secret diaries have been the subject of multiple concerned parents and a school investigation? I doubt it. That’s why I keep thinking that the portrayal of the problem that everyone else already mentioned was a bit exaggerated.
There were so many issues that kept on popping up throughout the film; they could have been movies on their own. The contributors most likely wanted to utilize different aspects, such as Emily’s blog, to deliver the main message; but, all these little parts of the film had huge issues buried in them. Issues that definitely could bring together actors, writers, producers and directors for several potential films.
I thought the film did a good job at bringing together girls from different backgrounds, most of whom were very relatable. To me the most identifiable was Catherine, whose mom suffered from cancer treatment. It was interesting to see how Catherine dealt with her situation. One thing I didn’t appreciate about the movie was the inclusion of religion. Some may argue that religion is a big part of American life, but it didn’t add any meaning to the plot; quite the contrary, I felt like the film unintentionally stereotyped religiousness as villainous.
I would recommend watching Sisterhood of the Night to those who enjoy suspense and unexpected plot twists. Although, after watching the movie I do not support Emily’s doings, at first I found myself believing in all the wrong things. I was amazed how the film put me on the spot. It definitely convinced me that everyone, even the most skeptical viewers can be persuaded that a lie is the truth!
The Sisterhood of Night is playing now in select theaters and is available everywhere on iTunes.