In Master, three women attempt to navigate different forms of racism at an elite and very white New England university. Also in Master, you see glimpses of a good movie that never takes shape.
With an odd blend of racism drama and supernatural thriller that never mix the way you’d like, Master clearly wants to tell you about white privilege and bias, but doesn’t know how to say it in a compelling or unique way. Though I wouldn’t describe the movie as heavy-handed, director Miriama Diallo nonetheless swings her message recklessly. Recent years have given us a plethora of movies about race in the modern age, but Master unfortunately isn’t destined to become one of the greats.
That’s not to say there aren’t splashes of greatness. Even though it isn’t actually a supernatural thriller, the movie works best as a horror movie; the threat of an evil spectre out to get Black people on campus is intriguing, and Diallo has a deft hand when it comes to things that lurk in the shadows.
Sadly, Diallo veers away from this storyline entirely midway through, opting to focus on Regina Hall’s character as a faculty member. Hall delivers a strong performance but is trapped in a nothing character; when she walks into the distance in the film’s final shot, you forget she was ever there.
Despite good intentions, Master never comes together the way you’d hope it would.
This movie was reviewed as part of our coverage of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.