It's 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the school's strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear-based discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the community, and indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shard of proof besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn which threatens to tear apart the community with irrevocable consequences. Written by
'Doubt' has turned out to be quite a fascinating puzzle. The story is pretty much told through dialogue rather than portrayal of events. Shanley's overwhelming screenplay is so effective and the element of mystery is carried out so strongly that even the viewer is left doubting the actions of the priest and the motives of the head nun (were her accusations legitimate or was it all an intent to ruin the priest). His incredible direction takes us through the psyche of the four principle characters.
Needless to say, the outstanding performances are just the necessary requirements that Shanley has successfully met. After all, who could ask for a better cast than Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis? All these actors display some of the best acting of their career. It is both the dialogue delivery and the non-verbal gestures that strengthens the doubts in the viewers mind and makes the characters nonetheless more convincing.
The slightly washed-out colours give the look of the 60s but also adds to the mysterious atmosphere. 'Doubt' is a very thought-provoking film. It has one questioning. Should the nun have reacted or should she have waited for evidence? But what if it was already too late for evidence? What has doubt done to them? It has them questioning themselves constantly. It has stolen their sleep. We accept that it is human to doubt but what does doubt do to us? What kind of power does it hold above us? How do we react on it? When should we react on it? The director beautifully manages to convey and provoke this without appearing pretentious or preachy.
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