Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, Doubt, adapted for the screen, stars Oscar winners Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and is supported by Oscar nominee, Amy Adams. Set in the early 1960’s at a Catholic elementary school in the Bronx, Father Flynn (Hoffman), a charismatic priest, is attempting to modernize the school’s Catholic customs – strictly enforced by the rigid Sister Aloysius (Streep). Struggling to fit in as the school’s first black student, Donald Miller, takes a particular liking to Father Flynn – a liking that is certainly reciprocated. Suspicious, and confident in her certainty regarding the true whereabouts of their relationship, Sister Aloysius embarks on a relentless mission to eliminate Fr. Flynn, and restore order in her community.
Unlike most films, Doubt lacks the conventional series of climatic turning points that peak a story. Fr. Flynn never gets caught in a graphic rape scene with Donald, leaving everyone heartbroken ad nauseas – However, the eerie, suspenseful tone of the score, and subtle shots of sneaky exchanges between the priest and boy alluding to inappropriate behavior keeps the film extremely engaging, and the viewers on the edge of their seats. The audience never actually witnesses a crime committed or a verbal confession from Fr. Flynn. This not only forces the audience to read between the lines, but keeps them from forming judgments about the characters until the film has ended.
Streep’s story line carries the film, and ultimately serves as the film’s final payoff. A woman dedicated to maintaining order and honoring tradition, is forced to challenge her religious vows in order to restore peace in her community. Could a woman so confident in her faith, admit to experiencing doubt? The film shows that regardless of how committed someone can be to a particular way of life – in order to truly stick to the books, you might have to bend the rules.
Doubt is entirely character driven, giving Hoffman and Streep yet another opportunity for critically acclaimed performances.Their scenes are fiercely committed, screaming Oscar nominations from start to finish. Doubt requires an audience to be in a very specific mood – which may stifle is appeal to a broad audience. But if you’re in the mood for some of the best acting of the year – spend the ten bucks.
Doubt available in select theaters December 12th.