Doubt (15)



Drama (2008)
104mins US

Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Joseph Foster II
Director: John Patrick Shanley
Writer(s): John Patrick Shanley
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Sister Aloysius runs her '60s Catholic school with an iron fist. Trouble erupts when Sister Aloysius learns from painfully naive Sister James that Father Flynn has "taken an interest" in one of the boys, Donald Miller. When the head nun learns that Father Flynn spent time alone in the rectory with Donald, she draws unsavoury conclusions and confronts the man of God, determined to bully him into a confession of guilt. Instead, he pleads innocence and the situation spirals out of control when Sister Aloysius contacts Donald's mother to apprise her of the supposed facts of the case.

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LondonNet Film Review
Doubt

In this 24-hour, digital age of CCTV cameras, the internet and the paparazzi, no sordid secret or lapse in judgement remains concealed forever...

Doubt. Photo Credit: Andrew Schwartz. Photo credited to Andrew Schwartz (C) 2008 Miramax Film Corp All Rights Reserved The truth will out, splashed across a front page or captured live on the camera of an omnipresent mobile 'phone. Reading and seeing is believing. However, our hunger for news is insatiable and in the absence of solid facts, we often nourish that hunger with gossip and rumour. So, what happens when you believe something to be true, even though you have no tangible evidence to back up your suspicions? How far would you go in your pursuit of the absolute proof? "What do you do when you're not sure? That's the topic of my sermon today," explains caring priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), at the beginning of Doubt. Themes of certainty and suspicion underpin writer-director John Patrick Shanley's film, adapted of his own Tony award-winning stage play of the same name, set in a '60s Catholic school.

In this hermetically sealed world of religion and rules, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) rules with an iron fist. Trouble erupts when painfully naive Sister James (Amy Adams) confides to her ferocious superior that the holy man has "taken an interest" in one of the boys, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II). When the head nun learns that Father Flynn spent time alone in the rectory with Donald, she draws unsavoury conclusions, despite protestations from Sister James. "It's my job to outshine the fox in cleverness. That is my job!" declares Sister Aloysius. "We are going to have to stop him ourselves." Inviting Father Flynn into her office with Sister James as a witness (for the sake of propriety), Aloysius confronts the man of God, determined to bully him into a confession of guilt. Instead, he pleads innocence. "I can fight you," insists Flynn. "You will lose," retorts Sister Aloysius coldly. "Where's your compassion?" he counters, clearly upset. "Nowhere you can get at it," she snarls. The situation spirals out of control when Sister Aloysius contacts Donald's mother (Viola Davis) to apprise her of the supposed facts.

Doubt. Photo Credit: Andrew Schwartz. Photo credited to Andrew Schwartz (C) 2008 Miramax Film Corp All Rights Reserved Like Frost/Nixon, the film version of Doubt lacks the immediacy and some of the palpable tension of the stage version but Shanley's adaptation of his own source material is still a riveting game of cat and mouse. Streep devours the screen, eyes burning with indignation as the nun pursues her vendetta, engaging in some terrific verbal skirmishes with Hoffman's besieged priest. Adams provides the meek voice of reason while Davis is stunning in just 10 minutes of screen time, taking our breath away with her character's reaction to the unfounded allegations of child abuse. The balance of power shifts, our loyalties are torn and like Sister James, we try to remain unbiased in the eye of the storm.

- Sam Cannon


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