Sister Aloysius (Streep) doesn’t care for Father Flynn’s (Hoffman) cavalier and laidback attitudes and finds it easy to become suspicious of him when he takes a close interest in a young black student. Accusations of molestation are denied in private arguments, and inexperienced nun, Sister James (Adams) gets caught in the crossfire, not knowing who or what to believe.
The film’s title, Doubt, lays the groundwork for this movie, it’s not a cut and dried approach, John Patrick Shanley isn’t standing on a soap box trying to preach to us, rather he wants us to think about what is going on, and how complex life is.
There’s an interesting scene at the start of the film when Father Flynn is preaching. There is a shot of one of the altar boys looking up and seeing a dove flying in the dome of the church. Doves are often a symbol of the spirit of God, this coupled with later scenes where we see the wind blown leaves and the effects after a storm blows through all seem to be subtle indicators that change is in the air.
Sister Aloysius isn’t comfortable with change and fights against it, most of her run ins with Father Flynn seem grounded in his modern holistic approach to caring for the boys in his charge. She is of the old order, where harsh discipline is the only way to bring up a child. It’s easy to paint Sister Aloysius with a broad stroke of the evil character, but in reality she is more like a scared child that needs the kind of attention and understanding that Father Flynn lavishes on one of his boys.
Flynn on the other hand doesn’t seem to think through before acting and fails to realise that his actions may be having an adverse affect on those around him. Hi attitudes also need to change as in his male dominated world, equality is still a foreign concept.
As sumptuous a tale as Doubt is, it really would have fallen flat on it’s face if it were not for the incredible performances of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Their combined energy is mesmerising and they seem to have this genuine passion that transcends into their characters delivering a nail biting performance.
The only thing I grapple with Doubt is the ending, as on first viewing it seemed like the weakest part of the whole movie. What this probably means in reality is that I need to go a watch Doubt again top see what I missed first time around and re-evaluate how it wraps up. Fortunately Doubt’s story and performance should lend itself to multiple viewings.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read.
Duration: 104 mins.
Genre: Drama, Adaptation.
Director: John Patrick Shanley.
Actors: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Lloyd Clay Brown, Joseph Foster.
Release Date: 15 January, 2009.