Doubt (2008)

Doubt (2008)
  • Time: 104 min
  • Genre: Drama | Mystery
  • Director: John Patrick Shanley
  • Cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams


In 1964 a Catholic elementary school has just admitted its first Black student, a 12-year-old boy transferred from public school. The principal, a rigid disciplinarian nun, and the liberal parish priest are both concerned for the boy’s welfare in a predominantly Irish/Italian parish. The nun becomes convinced that the priest has, or is planning to have, an improper relationship with the child and is determined to force him to leave the school. A third compassionate person is the boy’s mother, who has another point of view. The fourth person is a young teacher who is concerned but confused by the conflict between the nun and the priest.


  • Streep delivers a performance of the highest order. She’s truly a diamond in the rough in the acting world. Playing a strict nun trying to get to the bottom of an alleged abuse charge, she channels her inner Louise Fletcher to form a character who’s terrified by mostly all who encounter, expect a priest (Hoffman) which leads to one of the best scenes of the year.

    Adams is also good as the subdue and wide-eyed teacher who straddles the fence as to what side she’s on, but ultimately chooses one. Viola Davis is also powerful in her limited screen time. Another film which uses the technique of leaving it up to the audience, but in truth, a lot of the answers are definitely right in front of you.

    I have heard some people say that this film is too slow and boring for their taste, and that may be true for many people, because the climax of the story hardly gets above a heated debate between two people. But I actually enjoyed that about the movie. I thought the story was very interesting, and found myself really wanting to know how it was going to end. The script in my opinion was brilliant, which helped the story out, so I thought that part of the film worked out fine.

    Strong film.

  • John Patrick Shanley brings his Pulitzer-winning play of the same name to the big screen with positive results. He writes and directs Doubt, a film that literally pits two of cinema’s great acting talents – Meryl Streep, and Philip Seymour Hoffman – against each other.

    Streep plays Sister Aloysius, a conservative nun and a strict principal who works with old-school methods and demands a high level of discipline and obedience from her students of her church school. Hoffman plays Father Flynn, a liberal and easy-going priest who works in the same school.

    What seems like a holy and peaceful environment is unsettled by Sister Aloysius who accuses Father Flynn (which he denies profusely) of making inappropriate advances towards Donald, a lonely African-American boy with no friends and a father who ill-treats him.

    Doubt brings to question on many issues that will probably never ever be explained succinctly. The most troubling of all is the doubt versus certainty debate. What makes us say that we are certain about something when there are hints of doubts that naturally circulate in our mind? What governs our right to feel and determine whether something is certainly right or wrong? Do doubts make us feel certain? Or does certainty create doubts?

    The film does not give viewers a clear answer; instead it drafts up scenarios that explores the existence and importance of having doubts and uncertainties in our lives. Doubt also touches inferentially on homosexuality and liberalism versus conservatism. The story is set in the 60s, a turbulent but defining decade when humanity are introduced to new social beliefs and ethos.

    Shanley’s impressive screenplay captures the essence of that period with the wit of an experienced social observer; he balances the film on a knife edge between outright amusing and relevantly serious, and certainly deserves its Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay. Moreover, Shanley’s direction is purposefully slow and straightforward, giving the elegantly-photographed film a cultured and natural feel.

    Apart from writing, Doubt has four acting Oscar nominations for four of its major roles. Supporting actresses Amy Adams and Viola Davis give exemplary performances but are still clearly outshined by Streep and Hoffman. Streep seems to earn an Oscar nomination every time she stars in a new movie.

    She deserves her third acting Oscar here despite the strong challenge posed by Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (2008), and Angelina Jolie in Changeling (2008). Hoffman is probably one of the few actors in the world who is able to match Streep word for word.

    Three-quarters into the film sees the two square off against each other in a lengthy, devastating verbal tirade that is the centerpiece of the picture. Doubt is potent, powerful filmmaking with great performances and has high rewatchability. One of 2008’s best films, there is no doubt that Doubt is in line for a top ten finish.

    GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)
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