Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
Written by: John Patrick Shanley (screenplay & play)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis
Power resonates through every frame of this film. The themes, the characters, and the film making are all powerful gusts of wind sent forth from the mind of John Patrick Shanley to shake you to your core. However, it is not without one of the finest ensembles of the past several years that he achieves this.
What’s so great about this movie is that it speaks to something in everyone. Looking at Doubt as an allegory for our times, when unsubstantiated certainty lands us in an unwinnable war in the Middle East, you see something totally different than if you look at it as a critique on Catholicism’s unwillingness to change. You have to respect the material’s power to mean so much to so many different perspectives.
As mentioned earlier, the performances in this film are of the highest caliber. At the head of the pack is Meryl Streep playing Sister Aloysius, an old fashioned nun who is given a tip by the new nun (Amy Adams) that that a new-school priest (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) may have engaged in inappropriate behavior with an alter boy. Streep brings her indomitable acting talent to this equally powerful character, creating a performance that ranks among her best.
Thankfully, she has a match. Miss Streep has been known to eat lesser acting talents for breakfast when they don’t bite back. Adams and Hoffman are both excellent, bringing lightness to a world that seems so dark. It is Viola Davis, though, in a solitary scene, that gives Streep a run for her money.
In that scene, Davis plays the young boy’s mother and reveals secrets so revelatory not a jaw will be open by the end it. The rest of the cast also gets their moments though. The climax in Sister Aloysius’ office with the priest might as well have been called Clash of the Acting Titans. All performances in this film were Oscar nominated, and rightly so.
The film making almost lives up to the acting. The pacing stumbles a bit in the beginning, but once the rock starts to roll down the hill there’s no stopping it. You won’t be able look away. Shanley’s taut screenplay and the excellent cinematography of Roger Deakins makes undeniably excellent certainty about the power of Doubt.