Doubt is set in the Bronx in 1964, a year after Kennedy’s assassination: a time of general uncertainty and change. It focuses on a Catholic grade school run with an iron hand by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) and attached to the church of St Nicholas, whose priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has recently arrived, determined to bring change. The Second Vatican Council had just promised modernisation but Sister Aloysius is old school and determined to resist. She believes that it is her duty to protect her charges from sin and corruption. She and her school are bare and austere in contrast to Flynn’s warmth and his sympathetic relationship with the pupils and his congregation with whom he is popular. The film opens with Father Flynn preaching a sermon on doubt and the need to share doubts with others.
Change has already come to the school: it has just accepted its first black pupil, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II). A young idealistic nun, Sister James (Amy Adams), starts to suspect that Father Flynn’s relationship with the young Donald is warmer than it should be and she shares her suspicions with Sister Aloysius. From that point, Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn are on a collision course. Donald Miller’s mother is drawn in (played by Viola Davis who won an Oscar-nomination for her short part in an astonishing scene). As battle is joined and the issues of doubt and certainty, trust and responsibility are explored, the main protagonists offer us a masterclass in acting, confirming Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as two of the finest actors of their generation.
The director John Patrick Shanley wrote the screenplay, adapting his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play. He is an established playwright and screenwriter whose work has won critical acclaim and several awards. He won an Oscar in 1987 for the screenplay of Moonstruck. He was born in the Bronx in 1950 to Catholic parents. The cinematographer was Roger Deakins.
Cast – Amy Adams, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis, Joseph Foster
John Patrick Shanley | USA | 2008 | 104 minutes | 15
Weighted vote 89.8%