Currently available on Blu-ray and DVD
Review contains mild spoilers
This Catch Up is written by Telaina Eriksen
Doubt is a film for people who love good acting. What a line-up! Meryl Streep is Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the principal at St. Nicolas in the Bronx. The year is 1964 and Philip Seymour Hoffman is Father Flynn, a priest wrapped in the burgeoning Vatican II changes. He wants to bring more openness to the school that Sister Aloysius runs with an iron-hand. Viola Davis is Donald Miller’s mother. Donald is the first Black student to be enrolled at St. Nicolas and everyone is concerned at how he will be treated in this primarily Irish and Italian (white white white) school. Amy Adams is Sister James, the new and naïve nun, who doesn’t know what to think of the power struggle between her superior and the priest. I honestly didn’t know Amy Adams could act. I had only seen her in the new Man of Steel and Talladega Nights (which my kids and I quote weekly to each other. “I’m still sitting in my dirty pee pants.”). I was pleasantly surprised by her innocent and nuanced performance in Doubt.
Doubt is based on the play by John Patrick Shanley, who also converted the play to the screen. The story focuses on whether or not Father Flynn is having an inappropriate relationship with 12-year-old Donald Miller or whether Sister Aloysius Beauvier is setting him up due to his “liberal” ways. Viewers will see the action in the movie with a jaded eye due to the Catholic Church pedophilia and cover-up scandal but the film is called Doubt for a reason. Viewers doubt Sister Beauvier’s motivations. We see Sister James doubt the authority of both Father Flynn and Sister Beauvier. We doubt Father Flynn’s honesty. We also see all the characters doubts in their faith and in their church. And we see Mrs. Miller struggle with Sister Beauvier about what to do with Donald.They both have their doubts in this pivotal scene. We see why the tagline of the play version of this story was called Doubt: A Parable.
A fascinating thing to watch in the film is how the storm outside of the school parallels the storm going on inside it. At first the storm is damp and cold and inconvenient but gradually it builds, causing more and more damage. Another great parallel is how the nuns eat dinner versus how the fathers eat dinner. This is brilliantly cut, scene to scene, showing Sister Beauvier’s control of the nuns’ appetites and the fathers total capitulation to theirs.
All four of the films stars—Streep, Hoffman, Davis and Adams—received well-deserved Academy Award nominations as well as a boatload of other nominations and awards for their performances in these roles. If you’re a fan of any of these actors (especially the recently departed) Hoffman, you’ll want to spend 104 of your minutes on earth with this morally gray and ambiguous parable.