This film is not directed by a women, but has a female cinematographer, Julie Kirkwood. She sets the tone for the movie with pale colours, occasional black and white scenes, and mysterious darkness.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (formerly known as February), takes place in an all girls Catholic high school in Bramford. We’re introduced to to Katherine (played by Kiernan Shipka), a quiet, reserved introvert who anxiously waits for her parents to arrive and take her home for the school break. But they never arrive, so she has to stay in the school to wait for them. She doesn’t have friends, nor does she try to pursue any. She desperately wants someone to care for her, a parental figure rather than a friend. She’s disappointed when she finds out that Father Brian won’t be there to see her perform her piano piece.
Then we meet Rose (played by Lucy Boynton). She has surface level relationships, but she doesn’t let anyone close to her. She doesn’t trust anyone, she doesn’t pray to God, only when the teachers can see her. She’s being mean out of pure entertainment. She finds out she’s pregnant and doesn’t tell her parents, and she tricks them to come later so she can solve her problem on her own, and she refuses to accept her boyfriend’s support. She’s asked by the principle to look after Kat, but she refuses, due to “sickness”.
Besides the girls, two sisters stay in the school; Ms. Prescott and Ms. Drake. But Katherine can’t find solace in them, because Rose makes her believe the nasty rumour that they’re hairless devil-worshippers in disguise.
The evil lures Katherine in, by telling her exactly what she wants to hear. She gets mysterious phone calls from someone claiming it’s her father, or the headmaster, who says she can stay in the school. When she finds out her parents died, she becomes so vulnerable that the devil entirely takes over her, causing the brutal murders of Rose and the sisters. Father Brian does an exorcism on her, but she’s not relieved. Instead, she cries and asks the devil to come back to her.
Nine years later, we meet with her again, under the name of Joan, having just escaped from a mental hospital. An old couple offers her help at a bus station, saying they’re going to Bramford. Later we find out they’re the parents of Rose.
Kat becomes the antagonist, you’re supposed to be scared of her, but at the same time you can identify with her. She became vulnerable because of loneliness and grief, and the evil took hold of her. She has let the monster inside her, she was the victim. But by the end of the film, she willingly becomes the monster by killing Rose’s parents, and sacrificing them to the devil in order to get him back.
She doesn’t want someone who’s not permanent, she longs for someone who will be with her until the day she dies, no matter what.
Mental health and the supernatural are often intertwined. Katherine’s changed forever after the possession. She’s not dead, but she’s not fully alive. A part of her is missing. She becomes obsessed, all of her humanity is lost, she is only focusing on getting the devil back.
In other films, all girl schools are shown as competitive, mean spirited, lustful places. In this film, the main theme of the school setting is isolation. The girls don’t interact with each other, only briefly, and it doesn’t serve any meaning to the story.
Distrust is one of the main themes of the film. Rose doesn’t trust her parents enough to tell them about the pregnancy, and she ends up killed, without her parents ever really knowing her. Kat doesn’t trust anyone, she constantly feels betrayed. There’s a lack of communication between the female characters. Rose never tells anything to the sisters about Kat’s strange behaviour, which could’ve saved their lives.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter does not put its female characters into stereotype boxes. Rose and Kat are multidimensional. There’s no black and white; it shows the grey side of them. The only thing that disappointed me was that we did not seen enough of the sisters. They were only there to serve as a shock factor, to prepare the audience for the Rose’s death. I’d recommend seeing it at least twice, to understand the whole picture.
This film is a slow-burning masterpiece, shedding new light on women villains.
by Eszter Jászfalvi
Eszter Jászfalvi is a 16 year old femme from Budapest, Hungary, who’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist, a budding actress, a bibliophile and a beginner cook. Her favourite films include The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, Psycho, Donnie Darko, The Imitation Game and Brokeback Mountain. She’ll watch anything that Tim Burton and Wes Anderson makes, and whatever Dane Dehaan and Mia Wasikowska acts in. She’s also a serious binge watcher of all the good shows, such as Mr. Robot, Gossip Girl, American Horror Story, Bates Motel and Reign, also Black-ish. You can find her on Instagram @esztisworld and on Tumblr at esztiiscreatingherself.tumblr.com.