Doubt

“Doubt can be a bond as powerful as certainty”, says Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in his opening sermon. It is a statement that sets the tone for John Patrick Shanley’s film adaptation of his play of the same name. The film is set in 1960s Bronx at an uptight, strictly run Catholic school, where the students must all walk single file, and they are uniformly terrified of the principle, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep).

Meryl Streep gives a chillingly stoic performance (for the first two acts of the film) as Sister Aloysius who runs the school with an iron fist. She refuses to let any of the students step out of line, or even use ball point pens. She has a vision of how her school should run, and she strictly adheres to that. What Sister Aloysius says goes, and she will stop at nothing to make sure her school is disrupted.

However, the vision of uninterrupted perfection Sister Aloysius strives for is soon destroyed. Sister James (Amy Adams), a sweet, innocent and naive nun informs Sister Aloysius that Father Flynn requested that Donald Miller, the school’s only African American student be sent to the rectory. At first, Sister James in her purely innocent obliviousness thinks that there is nothing wrong with this. She is soon corrected when she informs Sister Aloysius, and she begins her campaign to bring an end to Father Flynn’s time at the church.

Sister Aloysius confronts Father Flynn with the information that Sister James gave her, but he of course dismisses it has absolute nonsense and is outraged to even be accused of abusing the young student. Father Flynn’s denial of these allegations do not stop Sister Aloysius from proceeding with her crusade against Father Flynn. She even calls the boys mother, Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis) and informs her that she feels that Father Flynn has inflicted an “improper relationship” on her son.

“Doubt” is an excellent showcase of four of the year’s best performances. Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman have an electrifying confrontation scene, where the true character arc of Streep’s stoic character is seen. Amy Adams is her normal, sweet self as the naive Sister James’. She is always a welcomed presence in any film she is in. Viola Davis gives a short, but commanding performance as Mrs. Miller. Her one scene with Streep is one of the best moments in any film this year. Davis’ is put up to the challenge of facing off with one of the finest actresses around, and she pulls off the daunting task.

“Doubt” is a film that could have gone horribly awry. This is a movie that is dialouge and character based, and being based on a play it could have come off a bit staged on screen. It only feels staged in a few minor scenes, but it doesn’t affect how great this film truly is.

Yes, we are left with doubtful feelings throughout the film, but like Father Flynn said, doubt can be a bond as powerful as certainty.

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