Doubt is a story about the workings of both Priest’s and Nuns within the St Nicholas Catholic School in
New York during the 1960’s. It is 1964 and political change is about to sweep America and the St Nicholas Catholic School has recently accepted Donald Miller, the first black student to attend the school. Donald quickly expresses an interest in becoming an alter boy, however it is soon suspected by others that someone is expressing too much of an interest in Donald. The story then becomes fuelled with suspicion and guilt, turning into dismay and disbelief.
The story centres around Sister Aloysius Beauvier’s (Meryl Streep), and her pursuit of a theory she has about one of her superiors. This theory is then stimulated by a colleague, Sister James, (Amy Adams), after she reveals she spotted something untoward going on during a routine day at the school. Father Brendan Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is at the centre of this pursuit and even though he seems to be held in high regard by the School and the Community his morality is put into question.
Meryl Streep’s cold, old fashioned nun, Sister Aloysius Beauvier, is once again a testament to Streep’s acting capabilities. She completely embodies the attributes of authoritative and stubbornness throughout the film. However, Streep has the capability to effortlessly change the audience’s opinion of her almost instantaneously when she illustrates her intuitiveness and compassion later on in the film.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the character of Father Brendan Flynn. Hoffman’s natural demeanour means he can easily express both gentle and wise characteristics. Father Flynn is a priest trying to move away from 1950’s thinking, however his quest is about to be disrupted by allegations made against him by Sister Beauvier. Hoffman adds great depth and mystery throughout the piece and although he is only in a supporting role his portrayal of Father Flynn is as equally compelling as Streep’s
Amy Adams also conveys a reasonable performance. The innate innocence of youth she brings to the piece adds balance to Meryl Streep’s commanding and totalitarian presence. She is caring and trustworthy but the burden of suspicion hangs over her throughout and the strain of this is also expressed convincingly.
Doubt is a mature and intelligent film and writer/director John Patrick Stanley should be applauded for his brilliant adaptation of the Tony Award winning play. He is of course the original author of the play but because it was a play adaptation the film did not have access to many of the trappings Academy award nominated pictures have. He did not have the grand locations and beautiful backgrounds, nor did he have thunderous scores or forceful soundtracks. He had the story and the characters within the story to drive the piece. They steered and he directed beautifully and should allow for the film to be remembered for many years to come.