A jumbled examination of racism and white supremacy wrapped in an occult horror thriller, Master has the ingredients for a powerful social commentary, but it fails to bring it all together.
Regina Hall stars as a new “Master,” or dean of students, navigating a complex history at the institution she works for just as a new student (Zoe Renee) attempts to find her place as one of the few Black students at the school. First time director/screenwriter Mariama Diallo has given herself a lot to juggle here, from a mysterious history of the school teased throughout the film via the experiences of Hall and Renee’s characters to a plethora of microaggressions and obvious biases that invigorate the conversation around race. None of it particularly sticks, however, as the ideas presented have not been fleshed out nearly enough. Hall and Renee are simply fine, unfortunately bogged down by the weight of a hefty, yet shallow script.
Many films are seeking to provoke conversations of systemic racism and the issues around it, most finding new and interesting ways to do so. Master sadly doesn’t feel fresh, nor does it do much to address the real world issues, instead leaning into the occult explanations that are never fully realized. An unfortunate misfire all around.
Photo from Sundance