Have you seen “Doubt”?
My husband and I watched it last weekend. I know it was a good movie because right after it was over, my comment was: WOW. (Generally speaking, the better the film, the less articulate I become). I then proceeded to keep thinking about the movie over the next few days. In my world, that also means it was a real humdinger.
If you aren’t familiar with the film, it’s the story of a priest in 1964 who may or may not have had an inappropriate (what a wimpy word: “abusive” is better) relationship with an eighth grade boy at the parish school. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the priest, Meryl Streep plays the principal who is convinced he has transgressed, and Amy Adams is the boy’s teacher, a young and gentle sister who hates to think ill of anyone. The subject matter is grim, but the film is not at all graphic, and — here’s the kicker — it’s story that keeps bending in upon itself. What I mean is that just when you think you’ve got the characters figured out, they surprise you … again.
Because I’m a real nerd, and because I had time while the boys slept, I watched some of the bonus material on the DVD. The film was originally a stage play, and you can tell when you watch the film: the intimacy of the scenes makes the theatrical origins clear. That said, the sets and locations (the Bronx neighborhood where playwright/director grew up himself) make for some wonderful visuals. You can practically smell the varnish in the school hallways and the incense in the church.
And gee, there are so many rich themes here: about the subtle conflicts between the genders, between change and the desire for tradition, between optimism and cynicism (or is it realism?), between those who have power and those who do not, and — most of all — between doubt and certainty. The acting is brilliant, all around. The scene where Meryl Streep talks to the boy’s mother (played to devastating perfection by Viola Davis) is utterly surprising, and adds an emotional wrinkle to the story that I would never have expected.
See it. Better yet, watch it with someone else, so you can talk about it at the end. It’s definitely a movie that begs conversation.
P.S. Also on the bonus materials is a nice feature about the Sisters of Charity, the order of sisters featured in the film (and who taught the playwright himself when he was a boy). Several sisters discuss their lives in the order and the changes that have taken place since 1964. Always nice to see women religious shown in such a positive light.