Meryl Streep in Doubt (2008)

Few Doubts Here

1964 and the winds of change are sweeping across America and in St. Nicholas, a catholic school in the Bronx where the strict Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) finds herself at odds with the more easy going charisma of Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When Sister James (Amy Adams) suggests that Father Flynn is to personally interested in the life of the schools first black student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster) it leads Sister Aloysius on a crusade to uncover the truth, the truth she wants to remove Father Flynn from the school and bring back the strict discipline she believes in.

I could mention that "Doubt" features a storyline surrounding paedophilia in the Catholic Church but whilst that is the basis of the movie it is for me a movie about three characters and three performances that are the story. This starts with Sister James, played by Amy Adams, a young sister without a huge deal of experience, who smiles whilst watching the children in dance class and who is intimidated by the sternness of Sister Aloysius. In her innocence is the willingness to believe that a Father could not be guilty of anything untoward, an almost desire to see the best in people and a lack of confidence to believe what she sees. Yet out of a sense of moral right she tells Sister Aloysius what she saw but is still unsure of herself, constantly second guessing herself over whether she is causing a fuss over nothing, having doubts.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (2008)

We then have Father Flynn, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in such a way that he makes us doubt ourselves as on one hand he has a laid back niceness but then he does things which make us think but maybe he isn't as innocent as he seems. It is a fantastic performance from Hoffman not only because he makes us doubt his character and feel conflicted for doing so but he builds the character in to a clever opponent in a battle of wills between him and Sister Aloysius over not just proving whether he did or didn't but also the running of the school.

And then we have the always wonderful Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius bringing to life the sternness of this disciplinarian but also the aspect of a woman who has to try and keep her personal dislike of Father Flynn out of her dealings with whether or not he has been getting too close to a student. There is a surprising touch of comedy to Streep's performance, in fact there is comedy in each of these performances but the lightness is needed to stop "Doubt" becoming too heavy. It also allows for the battle which begins between Aloysius and Flynn to have rises and falls, drama and conflict but most importantly mystery which is what keeps us watching, wanting to know how "Doubt" ends.

What this all boils down to is that "Doubt" is a movie which thrives on a mystery but also on three characters and three fantastic performances which turn what could have been a dry drama into a movie with rises and falls and which draws you in whilst also making some succinct points over doubt and the covering up of wrong doings to keep things simple.