Doubt (2008) Poster

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The Movie and the Case
p_radulescu22 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I think there are two distinct cases to discuss: the case in the movie; the case about the movie.

The case in the movie: it is 1964 and in a Catholic school in Bronx a conflict erupts between the principal (Meryl Streep) and the priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The principal is Sister Aloysius, a nun very strict about the discipline. The priest, Father Flynn, is just the opposite, a very natural guy, open to people and to the world. The nun suspects him of pedophilia. The suspicion will never be confirmed, never thrown away. Eventually it's up to us to decide, and our role of spectators is played in the movie by Sister James (Amy Adams), a younger nun who is trying to understand what really is, oscillating between the two. By the way, genial idea of using male names for the Catholic nuns, to stress out the strictness of their rules.

The case about the movie: the epoch Doubt was made and the epoch the picture takes place are very different. The sixties were the years of Vatican II; the Catholic Church was opening largely its windows. It was the conflict (often brutal) between new and tradition, between progressives and conservatives. This was then. Today the Church is facing the scandals of pedophilia (and the way they are handled by the Catholic hierarchy).

So, if we take the epoch of the sixties, we take the side of Father Flynn, a man open to modernity, empathizing with the youth, with their questions and their way of seeing the world, speaking the language of his epoch, a wonderful man suspected by a retrograde nun.

Only the movie is made today, for today's viewers, and we are focused on today's issues. So here is the question: once the nun had suspicions that the priest was a pedophile, what was the right way to take? To not follow a case without positive evidence? Or, by the contrary, to follow the case, to force him to come with proofs of his innocence? What was more important: his right to privacy or the safety of the boys? We can say that the movie leaves the case open. Nothing demonstrates positively that the priest is a pedophile; nothing demonstrates that he isn't.

Well, the movie brings something more: what if? What if the boy is born with another orientation and the priest is just understanding and protecting him? Maybe just because the priest has the same orientation? There is a key scene in the movie, the discussion between Sister Aloysius and the boy's mother (wonderfully played by Viola Davis), leading to an unexpected outcome.

And I think here is the doubt the movie is putting forward: more than the doubt of Sister James (is Father Flynn an abominable pedophile, beyond his openness?), more even than the doubt of Sister Aloysius (was she right in following a man without positive proofs?), there is the doubt of humanity. Human behavior is complex, each human case is unique and cannot be assimilated to a general pattern. Things aren't every time what they look like, we should always consider this question, what if?
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To Doubt Is Human
evanston_dad22 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Doubt can be a bond as strong as fear." If ever there was a time in our country's recent history where that line carried the force of relevance, it's now.

And though it's set in the early 1960s (roughly a year after the Kennedy assassination), there's no doubt that John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his own Pulitzer-Prize winning stage play is a response to these dark times, when the only thing that seems to be uniting Americans is their collective insecurity and ever-weakening belief that things are going to get better.

At the center of "Doubt" is the mystery of whether or not a priest (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is guilty of taking advantage of an altar boy. The priest's primary (and really sole) prosecutor is Sister Aloysius, the uber-stern and terrifying principal of the Catholic school that provides "Doubt" its setting. Watching Hoffman and Streep spar is like watching two professional tennis players at their best, and fans of expert movie acting should waste no time in seeing the sparks fly between these two. The movie purposely never clarifies the ambiguity of the charges -- is Hoffman's priest truly guilty of something, or is Sister Aloysius simply on a mad witch hunt? Streep's character is the most fascinating. From one perspective, she's a nearly maniacal harpie, intent on ruining a man's life and career for no clear reason. However, if her accusations are legitimate, she's a sort of hero, demanding justice from a male-dominated world that's willing to look the other way. Streep's performance is something fascinating to behold -- she can convey more with an arched eyebrow than another actor can with his entire face.

Amy Adams gets the pivotal role of a young, innocent nun who first brings her suspicions about the priest to her superior, and then sees them become Frankenstein's monster. In many ways, Adams' character is us, the audience, placed in the position of having to come to a conclusion on our own when empirical evidence is lacking. Adams' role is the least showy, but she does much with it.

And then there's Viola Davis, who, in five minutes of screen time, decimates the audience with some shocking conclusions of her own as the altar boy's mother. The insulated, hushed world of the Catholic Church is blown wide open by this struggling mother, who's seen more of the world than any of the priests and nuns sheltered behind the church's walls, and who puts the film's running themes of racial and gender inequality into harsh perspective.

The central conflict in "Doubt" in many ways comes down to each individual's view of the world and his or her ability to accept the ambiguity of day to day living. There's a lot about the world we will never know and much about our futures we'll never be able to control. So what's better -- anticipating the worst and therefore being prepared when it comes; or believing in the best and running the risk of being disappointed when it fails to arise? The movie just poses this question -- it doesn't try to answer it.

"Doubt" is not a fancy movie and will win no awards for its cinematic audacity. But in looking back at the movies of 2008, I imagine it will stand as one of the best-acted films of the year.

Grade: A
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American Film's heavyweight acting champs square off.
st-shot29 December 2008
There are no better actors working in American film today than Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Streep has been on top for some time now and Hoffman has an unmatched resume of fine performances over the past five years. Pairing off as adversaries in John Patrick Shanley's stage play brought to screen they parry and prod throughout with each landing hay makers along the way.

Change is in the wind in 1964 for both the world and the Catholic Church (Second Vatican Council) as the country moves from conservatism to liberal thought. Sister Aloysius (Streep)is the principal of an inner city Catholic school who rules with an iron fist. Lamenting the loss of tradition (she thinks Frosty the Snowman is a song about worshiping false idols) she crosses swords with the popular and laid back Father Flynn who takes a more liberal view seeing the need to keep up with the times. His progressive ways gnaw at Sister Aloysius and she is soon suspecting Father Flynn of inappropriate relationship with altar boys even though she is without concrete proof.

The scenes between Streep and Hoffman are riveting from start to finish. Both attempt at first to be civil with each other but eventually they end up at each others throat bullying and threatening. It is a titanic emotional struggle that makes for a gripping drama flawlessly acted. I'm no big fan of Streep, finding the adopted accents she employs in some of her films false and hollow, but as the self righteous Nunzilla her pugnacious style and inflection rates with her Sophie's Choice performance. Hoffman has his work cut out for him to keep up with the formidable legend but he holds his own with equal footing.

In supporting roles Amy Adams is very effective as the unintended go between Sister James. Seized with doubt she like the audience mirrors our own misgivings as conflicted objective observers. Viola Davis as a troubled boy's mother has one lengthy powerful and painful scene that begins to tie loose ends together but offers no easy solution.

Writer director John Patrick Shanley does an admirable job in keeping the plot nebulous with ambivalent scenes and peripheral characters that purposefully enhance the suspense. Scenes are tightly edited with sparse but effective dialog giving the film its steady pace. Other than some jarring oblique angle shots the camera compositions and set design provide a somber ambiance for the drama and an arena for the perfectly measured performances by two masters of the craft in this fight to the finish that remains absorbing from beginning to end.
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Absolutely riveting!
manxman-131 August 2009
Wow! Incredible performances from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymore Hoffman. Mesmerizing intensity from Streep as the nun seeking to find Hoffman guilty of a sin he may or may not have committed. Amy Adams gives a sincere performance as the nun who sets the ball rolling with her suspicions that Hoffman may have molested a black student. The scenes between Streep and Hoffman crackle with intelligence and frightening intensity. Streep, as the unrelenting figure of justice, determined at any cost to destroy Hoffman, is terrifying and unrelenting. Hoffman gives a performance less restrained and mannered than the one he gave in Capote (and won the Oscar for) and boy, does he ever deserve to have won a second one for this outing. An absolute knockout, nuanced and convincing in every way. What a masterful performance! John Patrick Shanley's script is riveting from start to finish. If anyone has any doubts about watching this movie due to the theme then put those doubts aside as the writing and acting are without doubt amongst the finest ever committed to film. A superb piece of work.
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The Power Of Doubt
Chrysanthepop20 March 2009
'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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New genre - the moral thriller
jsorenson7772 February 2009
Normally we give too much credit to actors. They often work for short periods and force myriad takes. Directors manipulate and cajole them. Then the filmmakers spend months choosing the best shots, carving them and stringing them together to make the story (and the long-gone actors) look good.

"Doubt" is an exception, only in that the actors are especially marvelous. The many close-ups and the length of the shots attest to the trust John Patrick Shanley puts in them. Streep and Hoffman are superb. Adams and Davis are remarkable as well.

Still the most credit for this phenomenal effort must go to Shanley.

What a fascinating story, with layers and springbacks that will leave you thinking and rethinking.

Thank you very much to all involved with this fine film.
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I still have doubts
gooelf5024 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This was the most unsettling movie I have seen in many years. Throughout the showing I found myself wandering back and forth between condemnation of the Priest's behaviour, the Principal's behaviour and the behaviour of the young black student's Mother. The part of the traditional nun who is principal of a Catholic School is played perfectly by Meryl Streep. She's unhappy with change and views it almost as a loss of the comfort and peace of mind that comes with tradition. The part of the new Priest is played just as perfectly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He views change in the way religion is practiced as absolutely essential and wants to see the iron fisted traditional rule of the principal disappear into the dark, inflexible past where it belongs. Thus, from the beginning of the movie there is a silent war between the two main characters. If you are a trusting and positive person, you may find yourself believing that the new priest is a wonderful man who cares about nothing more than the religious health and happiness of the parishioners and young students of his church. The affection that he displays for the troubled young black student at the centre of the controversy is touching and absolutely appropriate. On the other hand, if you are a more cynical person, likely to be suspicious of any behaviour that strays from the reserved understanding that a priest traditionally expresses in a more sombre way to his parishioners and students, then you may quickly decide that he is all of the things that the principal suspects him to be. In the end, the principal wins out and succeeds in driving the new priest out of the parish. He moves on to another parish where he has greater responsibilities and enjoys a higher level of professional respect. But I, the viewer, am left wondering if the principal is a paranoid cast back to 17th century religious practices, who victimizes a new priest simply because he represented change that she wasn't prepared to accept, or if the new Priest actually is an abuser who took advantage of a young vulnerable boy who had no one to turn to for comfort, but was ferreted out by a wise, no nonsense adherent to purity in religion.
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Spectacular, gripping, shattering
fnj200222 December 2009
"Doubt" dares to explore one of the most compelling issues of recent years, and to do so with a completely unmanipulative perspective with no sermonizing.

The linear narrative style is refreshing, with no flashbacks and flash forwards, and no contamination of the story (set in the early 1960s) with the hindsight of recent events. It is relentless. We see the events of those days without any cinematic deus ex machina. We are not privileged to any all-showing exposition of critical events. We have only the souls of the principles as expressed in their dialog and in their faces.

With the mighty acting duo of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and a more than able supporting cast and superb direction, "Doubt" has dramatic fireworks without cheap gimmicks.

The final 30 seconds puts a fitting cap on the message. The effect is devastating.
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Avoids easy answers
howard.schumann22 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
According to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, over four thousand clerics were accused of sexual abuse during the past fifty years. Although approximately thirty percent of these accusations were not investigated because they were unsubstantiated, given the proclivity of the bishops to cover up these incidents, the figures are widely suspected to be underestimated. What may be lost in the discussion of statistics about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, however, is an understanding of the humanity of the people involved or the complexities of the circumstances.

This factor is brought to light in Doubt, John Patrick Shanley's filmed version of his Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning stage play. Based on Shanley's personal experiences at Catholic School, the film explores not only the issue of possible sexual abuse but conservative versus progressive religious values and how far one can rely on suspicion in the absence of proof. Set in 1964, one year after the Kennedy assassination, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) is the dragon lady of St. Nicholas school in the Bronx. A strict taskmaster, she relishes her role as the upholder of tradition, rejecting such modern devices as ballpoint pens and the singing of secular songs at Christmas like Frosty the Snowman which she equates with pagan magic.

Under Aloysius is the sweet and innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) whose easy going manner and charming personality is a welcome antidote to her authoritarian superior. The priest at St. Nicholas is Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is the closest thing to a progressive at the school. He is open to new ideas and the changes initiated by Pope John XXIII, being much more open and relaxed with the children and engaging them in sports and conversation. In his sermons he brings the language of religion into the twentieth century, talking about the positive aspects of doubt and the injurious effects of gossip. "Doubt", he says, "can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone." Resentful of the role of women in the Catholic Church and suspicious of Father Flynn, Sister Aloysius assigns Sister James to keep an eye peeled for anything unusual in his conduct. Her fears appear justified when Sister James reports that Father Flynn asked Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II), the school's only African-American student, to a private conference in the rectory and was seen hanging up the boys undershirt in his locker. Sister James also informs her that there was alcohol on the boy's breath and that the boy seemed upset when returning to his desk.

Although no inappropriate behavior was witnessed, Sister Aloysius suspects wrongdoing and summons the priest to her office on the pretext of discussing the Christmas pageant. She accuses the priest of misconduct with the altar boy who denies that he gave altar wine to the boy or that anything unusual happened. The drama takes more twists and turns, especially when Donald's mother (Viola Davis) raises Aloysius' eyebrows by suggesting that, in spite of the allegations, the boy, who is due to enter high school in a few months, may be better off in the hands of the priest than having to face his intolerant and abusive father.

Doubt avoids easy answers and challenges us to view inflammatory issues from a broader perspective, embracing the essential mystery of human behavior. The acting in the film is uniformly brilliant. Streep is mesmerizing, even if at times more theatrical than may be necessary for the character. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is more restrained and draws our sympathy with his broader view of church doctrine and display of love and compassion, although his demeanor at the end tantalizingly suggests remorse.

What may be the most noteworthy performance, however, is that of Viola Davis whose dialogue with Aloysius is one of the dramatic high points of the film. The issue of whether Father Flynn acted as a friend and mentor to the boy or a sexual partner is ultimately left to the viewer to resolve, though what is beyond doubt is that absolute certainty without considering other points of view is a dead end for all involved.
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Very good, very vague
MartinHafer21 November 2009
I'm not going to give a long or exhaustive review. A bazillion others have and the movie was released over a year ago--so my giving any sort of in-depth analysis is just needless repetition.

The movie's biggest strength is the acting. All three leading actors did a fine job and this was necessary to carry a film that has no special effects, explosions or love scenes. The vagueness of the film is also a strength. After all, the film gets you thinking and yet there is definitely no clear-cut answer as to what really occurred in the film. There is lots of room to foster discussions and debate. And, while I am a strongly opinionated person, I wouldn't have changed much of the film at all--except the very, very end when Meryl Streep's character, for the first and only time, shows some doubt and emotion. This just didn't seem true to her character. Still, this is a minor concern--and who am I to say, since I didn't win the Pulitzer Prize (last time I checked)! Some may hate the vagueness and want a very clear explanation as to what, exactly, the Father did--if anything. Some may hate that the film actually isn't vague enough (I slightly tend towards that). But what I love about all this is that so many different people see so many different things--mostly based on their own prior experiences and expectations. I could easily see someone seeing gay issues, pedophilia (and it's talked ABOUT but never even explicitly said) or a thousand other possibilities--or it could simply be a metaphor for McCarthyism. Who knows? And that makes the film so interesting.
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Thrilling, thoughtful, intriguing. One of the best films of 2008
MovieDude189312 April 2009
Doubt {dir. John Patrick Shanley} (****/****)

Although it includes some heavy themes, Doubt, is one of the most entertaining and involving films to come along in quite sometime. Rarely have my heart and mind been so engaged in a film simultaneously. At its heart, Doubt remains the stage play upon which it is based, about a priest who is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a young boy. The priest is played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and the nun investigating (Sister Aloysius, great name) the situation is played by Meryl Streep, the best living actress and the best actress of the year. The language used in the film treats the situation very carefully and the confrontations between the characters crackle with well- written intensity. The film's central theme is indeed the title: Doubt. As an audience, we are left to our own devices in judging Father Flynn's relationship to the young boy. This uncertainty is a rare and valuable thing in film today. Great performances, wonderful writing and tough themes.
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interesting theme only sporadically well executed
Buddy-515 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Strong performances are the saving grace of "Doubt," an otherwise uneven, overly glib tale of possible sexual abuse in one New York City parish circa 1964.

Sister Aloysius is a tradition-bound nun who goes through life utterly untroubled by uncertainty or doubt, running her convent and grade school with unyielding self-righteousness and the iron fist of unchallenged authority. Sister Aloysius doesn't take any more kindly to the accoutrements of the modern world - she has banned all ballpoint pens from the premises and decries "Frosty the Snowman" as a celebration of pagan magic - than she does to the "liberalizing" effect Vatican II has had on the Church she views as the last bastion of morality in an increasingly permissive and immoral world. This puts her in direct conflict with Father Flynn, a reform-minded, man-of-the-people priest who is more concerned with his parishioners' needs than with church ritual per se - yet whom Sister Aloysius has reason to suspect might be a pedophile. Or is she simply targeting the man and seeing what she wants to see because his view of the Church is so at odds with her own? The third main character, Sister James, is a perpetually upbeat but generally naïve novice who becomes more than a disinterested bystander in the war-of-wills that erupts between her two equally hardnosed superiors.

In adapting his play to the screen, writer/director John Patrick Shanley hits on some intriguing themes revolving around certainty vs. doubt and traditionalism vs. progressivism, but the movie isn't always as intellectually honest and convincing as one might wish it to be, especially when Shanley indulges in such hokey effects as the winter wind batting against the windows or well-orchestrated thunder bolts crashing overhead at "meaningful" moments in the picture. Similarly, the reactions the characters have to one another and the situation they're involved in don't always ring true given the less enlightened time period in which the story takes place. And the final "transformative" moment comes upon us with such abruptness and with so little preparation that it quite literally rings down the curtain on the entire enterprise.

Yet, despite all these flaws, "Doubt" periodically rises to the occasion and does justice to the complexity of its subject matter. This is particularly the case in a searing scene between Sister Aloysius and the mother of one of the boys who may have fallen victim to Father Flynn's inappropriate conduct, a scene that catches us completely off-guard with its sheer unexpectedness and its paradigm-shifting effect on the story.

Moreover, the performances are uniformly excellent, starting with Meryl Streep who brings a surprising amount of humor and even warmth to a character who is, for all intents and purposes, cut off from her emotions by her dogmatically rigid nature. Phillip Seymour Hoffman effectively keeps us guessing as to the truth about his character, never tipping his hand one way or the other as to what is taking place in the depths of his soul. Amy Adams makes a compelling stand-in for those of us in the audience who are trying to reserve judgment on these two characters before all the facts are revealed. Special note must also be taken of Viola Davis, superb in her brief but unforgettable appearance as the mother who delivers an unsettling response to news that her son may have been the victim of a sexual predator.

The movie seems to suggest that one can never have one hundred percent certitude about anything in this life and that actions must often be taken even when all the "facts" in a particular case can never be fully known. Yet, what happens when such an action could result in the destruction of another person's livelihood and reputation? It's an interesting theme that is only sporadically well addressed by "Doubt," but the food-for-thought that the movie provides makes it worth checking out anyway.
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To A Moral Certainty.
rmax30482322 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It's a fine movie, made for adults. Meryl Streep is the principal of a Catholic school. She's not sadistic but is pretty curmudgeonly and runs the place like Parris Island. Streep takes a dislike to a newly arrived priest, Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom she deems too friendly towards the polished and well-groomed students. She also is offended because Hoffman uses a ball point pen, takes three lumps of sugar in his tea, and has longer fingernails than she thinks proper.

Another nun, a history teacher, Amy Adams, has noticed that Hoffman called one of the boys to the rectory, and when he returned she could smell alcohol on his breath and put his head down on the desk -- "acted queerly", as Adams puts it.

That's all Streep needs. "I'll bring him down," she says. There are two confrontations between Streep and Hoffman. His explanation of the incident in the rectory is that a custodian found the 12-year-old boy tippling the altar wine. He had a chat with the kid and then let him go with the promise of keeping his misbehavior secret, otherwise the kid would have to be dismissed from the altar boys.

"You haven't a shred of evidence," shouts Hoffman. "No, but I have my certainty," replies Streep in her usual cold and emphatic tone. She wins, too.

Did Hoffman molest the boy, as Streep believes? We don't know for sure. It's a probabilistic universe. We can't really be certain of anything. Will the sun rise tomorrow? The only correct answer is "probably." But this isn't a movie about probability theory or even religion. It's a movie about power, about who makes the rules around here. And Streep proves that an unyielding absolute certainty, an unflinching drive, will win out over compassion and love. Streep's approach to people and things she identifies as evil could be described as a unilateral, preemptive strike. There is no good word or short phrase to describe her default attitude towards the world in general. Cynicism, I suppose, comes close but you'd have to add a dash of paranoia and a nearly complete absence of an ability to introspect.

Streep positively eats up the screen. She's a splendid actress. Yet the script doesn't turn her into an evil witch. That's one of the things I had in mind when I said this was a movie for adults. A cheaper, less thoughtful, more commercial story would have had her going through hell in order to expose Hoffman's priest for the child-molesting monster that he is. Ambiguity rests uncomfortably on minds that are less than mature. All of the roles are complex and demanding, and Hoffman handles his very well, as usual. Amy Adams' nun is caught between the two. The role is that of a sweet wimp but she delivers. So does Viola Davis in two brief but powerful scenes with Streep.

Much of the credit goes to John Patrick Shanley's screenplay, which illustrates the personalities of the characters without yielding to long, wordy set speeches that pit one philosophy against another. The two arguments between Streep and Hoffman take up considerable time but are never boring. I mean it as a high accolade when I say it bears watching more than once -- the first time for the story, the second to appreciate the magnificent performances.

Nice job, all around. God, those nun's habits are ugly.
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To Catch a Predator
tieman6414 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
John Patrick Shanley directs "Doubt". The plot? A Catholic nun accuses a priest of abusing a child. She has no evidence, but trusts her instincts. He did it. Others disagree, but she insists. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing. A scheming, self-serving man who sings sermons of tolerance, love and the dangers of gossip only as a smokescreen for his own wicked ways. She will catch him, and her brand of militant Christianity will cast him away!

The priest, of course, denies ever committing abuse. He insists that the nun is deeply misguided. She, he believes, is an authoritarian figure who has turned Christianity into a religion of fear, suspicion and intolerance. She, he insists, is on a quest to expunge symbols of tolerance and "progressivism" from the Church.

What follows is an epic battle of truth, doubt, denial and suspicion, but more importantly, a battle between two heavy weight acting legends. Meryl Streep plays the nun and Philip Seymour Hoffman the priest, and when the duo square off in a single room towards the film's climax, its hard not to grin. They spout dialogue like arrows, trade gazes like cannon fire, both actors showing shades of vulnerability, weakness, strength and righteousness. Who do we trust? Who do we side with? Who is right? Who is wrong? That the film keeps us enthralled and guessing so long is a testament to a tight script and some brilliant performances by both Streep and Hoffman.

8/10 – An excellent drama, marred only by an overly tidy ending. Makes a good companion piece to "The Magdalene Sisters" and "Black Narcissus".
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Entertaining Drama In One Single Note
arichmondfwc24 November 2008
Let me start by saying that I wasn't bored for one second and that it is always fascinating to see great actors chewing the scenery. Meryl Streep is one of my heroes she will always be be here something happened. Her performance is devoid of highs and/or lows. She goes through it in second gear. I had hoped for a performance of the Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratchet with a pleasant almost benign exterior but a monstrous center and Philip Seymour Hoffman, another great, doesn't project any kind of sexual vibe so the sexual allegations may work on a stage play but not on the screen. The part needed a John Garfield. On top of that, there is something missing on the structure of the story. We're taken through two acts but the third act is missing. I didn't believe in that ending it felt to come out of left field. So yes, I was entertained but dissatisfied.
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Doubt is all Dialogue, Acting and Weather
Acolin_f30 August 2009
Doubt is all Dialogue, Acting and Weather

There is no doubt. Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and for Best Writing, Doubt is an acting tour de force.

Remember this name. John Patrick Shanley. He is the writer of only a dozen movies, but a few of them are quite good. He wrote Alive with Ethan Hawke, Joe Versus the Volcano with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and the sweetheart maker, Moonstruck with Nicholas Cage and Cher (Oscar for screen writing).

The 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this Broadway play is all dialog, acting, and weather. Cold weather. Cold northeastern winter weather. The kind that blows across your path, knocks down limbs in your way, obscures your vision and maybe makes you see things that aren't there. The kind of hard wind that blows away the fine line dividing right and righteous, wrong and wronged. The kind of cold Meryl Streep exposes as Viola Davies offers up her son to the bare bones of stark truths.

Just as Shanley did with the play, none of the other actors know if Father Flynn is guilty. Yet, the Spartan dialog gives these accomplished angels their wings. Doubt floats with the power of their performances. Nary is a word wasted. Neither a look nor a glance spent unwisely.

"Doubt," Philip Seymour Hoffman's character says in the opening siloque, "can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty."

With performances like Julia & Julie, Meryl Streep will soon be sweeping aside all other acting award records. Those who love her need look no further than Doubt for proof of her incredible talents.

Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis and John Patrick Shanley follow in her footsteps. They track her out of the warmth of what you think you know is right and good and into a shivering Bronx, dusted with unfeeling snow. 8/16/2009

Love these lines!

Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)in Doubt:

Well, I'm not going to let her keep this parish in the dark ages! And I'm not going to let her destroy my spirit of compassion!

That I can look at your face and know your philosophy. It's kindness.

There are people who go after your humanity, Sister, that tell you the light in your heart is a weakness. Don't believe it. It's an old tactic of cruel people to kill kindness in the name of virtue. There's nothing wrong with love.
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More like Vagueness than Doubt
fung014 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Doubt is almost a great film, but it falls short on logic. The many 10/10 ratings seem to refer more to what the film *should* have been, than to what it turned out to be.

For me, the main problem is the trick that Meryl Streep's nun plays on Hoffman's priest - lying about calling a nun in his old parish. This seems to reveal with far too much certainty that the man is indeed guilty - of something. If he wasn't expelled from previous positions, why does he not question the (supposed) phone call more strongly? If we are to believe that the priest resigns simply because he feels unable to fight the slander, then we should hear him say so. Instead, we see only that he's running away; apparently, the nun's tactic has worked.

As a result, the nun ends up looking far too 'right,' and the ending sounding far too glib. There's no other explanation offered, no discussion of ramifications or possibilities. Could the priest's obvious good works excuse some wrongdoing? The question is not asked, nor answered. On the other hand, is the nun right to be malicious and inflexible, because in the end she accomplishes the correct result? Apparently she is, since any ill effects - especially on the naive younger nun - are not really delved into. (They're suggested in one scene, then abandoned. If there have been no ill effects, then clearly the older nun was right.)

So far, the film's point of view is clear as mud. (In fact, various reviewers here have come to entirely different conclusions. That's not Doubt; that's just vague.)

On top of all this there's the historical perspective. I was actually IN Catholic schools at about this time, and I happen to know the real guilty party, beyond any Doubt: it was the Church as an institution. The film seems prepared to tackle this issue, but again fails to carry through. We have the older nun, representing the stiff, traditional past. Contrasted with the priest, who reflects the much-needed modernization brought in by Pope John XXIII. Yet it's the priest who ends up in the wrong. What are we to make of this?

And what about Meryl Streep's character - who quite accurately represents generations of venomous, domineering nuns who terrorized small children - a legacy of institutionalized bullying that did easily as much harm overall as any priestly molestations. Do we hate her for the harm she does? Well, it's not really shown. She's right every time she deals with a child, and none show any obvious ill effects of her domination. (Though I would suggest that in fact the film's characterizations are accurate; Catholic schools tended to either crush children's will, or turn them into obnoxious rebels. Both outcomes are represented in the film, but the point of what we're seeing is not raised.)

With all this in mind, Streep's final cry of "Oh, I'm so wracked with doubt!" sounds very hollow indeed. What is she so doubtful about?? She has absolute certainty that the priest was guilty. Is she just agonizing over the methods she used to defeat him? Could it be that the *real* doubt in this movie is merely whether or not the ends justify the means?? If so, how disappointing, when so many other questions have been raised! And how uninteresting, given that no real ill effects of her tactics are shown.

Which brings us to the central dramatic failing of the film. The real pivotal character of this story is clearly that of the younger, naive nun. She is the only character that undergoes a major transformation, and hence begs to be spotlighted. Yet we are left entirely unclear as to how the events of the film have affected her. Has she been poisoned by the elder nun's harsh attitudes? Or has she absorbed the love and humor of the (possibly flawed) priest? Or, ultimately, can she find a middle course, that would show a way forward for the Church: due caution, tempered with a love that puts the children's welfare first? Unfortunately, the film's ending veers away from this, THE key question, and focuses on Streep's deeply uninteresting "Doubt."

It seems like Shanley set out to create one of those knife's-edge dramas, where difficult questions are raised but not given absolute answers. But at some point he slipped off, ending up not with ambivalence and "Doubt," but with logic that's just muddled. Or maybe the gaps were filled by material that ended up on the cutting room floor. I had the strong feeling the film wanted to be about fifteen minutes longer. A bit more exposition might have at least told us what we were supposed to be in Doubt *about.*

On the positive side, I'd say that the film looks terrific, and the (three!) main performances are brilliant - even though constrained by by Shanley's confused script.
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This is an edge of the seat dramatic roller-coaster. extremely powerful blow to the senses
Jamie_Seaton15 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
everything in this film is remarkable. the acting is flawless. i haven't seen acting as good as this in a long time. this film is a true masterpiece that deserves the attention of true movie fans that wanna see something powerful and moving. Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis do extraordinary and career defining work in this. they all got Oscar nominations but didn't win unfortunately. its actually very hard to determine who my favourite actor was in the film. the directing and screenplay is simply amazing by John Patrick Shanley. i've not heard of him before but hoping he makes other flawless masterpieces like this. i think he should of won some Oscars for this film. i really don't know how Slumdog Millionaire got the better of this, The wrestler and The curious Case Of Benjamin Buttons. don't get me wrong because Slumdog is brilliant but them other films surpass it i think.

its a truly powerful and stunning story. the story tackles with a very controversial concept, child abuse. Meryl Streep plays a principal at a church school and has a dislike for Father Flynn played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Amy Adams plays a teacher that has an inkling that Father Flynn has been interested in one of the boys at the school. the film is very shocking and really has your eyes wide open and gasping. the whole movie really works perfectly. the exact right cast were chosen for this. the pacing of this is perfect and the gritty look of it really pulls you in. the acting without a doubt with have you glued to this classic. one of the best films in a long while. A MASTERPIECE............. 10/10............j.d Seaton
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The Dragon Nun and The Wimp
mocpacific10 January 2009
I was taken aback by the lack of nuance and subtlety. Meryl Streep is a monstrous nun from the very beginning and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a wimp that can shout but remains a wimp. I just didn't believe any of it, which is a pity because this are among my favorite actors of all time. I think that John Patrick Shanley (the writer, director) didn't have enough muscle to handle this enormous talents. Meryl's nun couldn't hide anywhere, she carries her intolerance, frustration and repression on her sleeve. She knows she is hated but according to her, that's her job. No, I didn't believe it. I thought what Vanessa Redgrave, Liv Ullman, Helen Mirren even Cherry Jones who played her on the stage could have done with this creature and then, Philip Seymour Hoffman's priest, without a single vibe of sexuality, imagine what Montgomery Clift could have done with that! After saying what I've said I also have to add that the film is never boring and that is also merit of the miscast leads. They are great fun to watch. The film is dedicated to Sister James, the young nun played by the wonderful Amy Adams, so this is based on a real case? I don't believe that either.
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Free to interpretation of each who sits down to observe.
Otoboke28 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Doubt, as it is most commonly known in its many manifestations and forms, is often antagonised as a weakness, or a fault in virtue. Yet, somewhat dubiously overlooked is its antithetic counterpart who comes in the form of belief, faith, conviction, or unwavering assertion. Indeed, how far will a person tread down a road guided only by their intuition and trust in faith alone? These questions which in turn reflect and pave way for many of Doubt's most potent and engaging moments of narrative, are of course brought up in the course of the adapted play's screenplay, but they are not answered—at least, not directly. In fact, rather ironically, doubt is a feature that places the pieces of the moral puzzle in question upright onto the table, and then leaves them there; dangling and free to interpretation of each who sits down to observe. This somewhat open-ended, vague and subjective form of cinematic expression is something that is rarely seen outside of art houses and the most daring of film-makers palettes. And yet director/writer and playwright John Patrick Shanley implements the risky move here with ease and grace. Yet the real flavour, despite having plenty of potency within these realms, lies outside of debating, suspicions and tests of virtue—first and foremost, doubt is a study of human characters, and how they can often clash as a result of their diversities in opinions and temperaments. The majority of Doubt's story then is central to three catalysts for the script's themes to manifest and evolve. These three personas come in the form of a reserved, progressively adapted priest by the name of Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman); a young, bright-eyed newcomer nun named Sister James (Amy Adams); and a stern, assertive and conniving traditionalist nun named Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep). While it would be of no fault of anyone to assume that the themes I have mentioned thus far have everything and all to do with the question of religious faith only, this tangent however relevant and vital to the backdrop of the story, nevertheless serves as just that—a backdrop. Instead Doubt takes its intellectual conflict between heart and reason in the form of a cloudy event involving father Flynn and a young alter-boy who takes a certain liking to the father-like-figure of the priest. After hearing a notably unsure and reserved report from Sister James, Sister Beauvier asserts that she knows what is going on with Flynn, and that she's going to set everything straight. But what then, is her evidence? Not much. In fact, aside from word of mouth (gossip, you could decree) from a young, naïve woman not sure even of her own words, Beauvier has nothing but her suspicion and conviction to go on. From here on in then, it is the sole intent of the director to address the themes of doubt itself, and its oppressor, being the Absolute Truth, or so it is perceived by those who take heed of its obvious presence. How Shanley delivers his story is nothing short of engrossing however; the whole structure of the play sees characters sway from one end of the moral spectrum to the other—indeed, it's startling as a viewer to find such palpitating changes of heart regarding characters. Sure enough, the whole affair comes across as overtly manipulative because of the amount of ambiguity and twists and turns that Shanley throws out there, but taken in context of the movie's themes of mistrust, unfaltering conviction and the inability for compassionate re-evaluation, Doubt reflects its ideas in the head of its viewer without blatantly pointing out such shifts; the emotional tugs are indeed obvious, but the strings pulling them, are not. Yet for all intents and purposes, Doubt exists as a fine testament not only to Shanley's ability as a film-maker, but also his ability to direct his cast, and to allow them to envelop the characters from within his emotionally contorted monster. Taking forefront for obvious reasons here are both Hoffman and Streep who deliver performances just as convincing and engaging as their characters are written. Hoffman himself has seen a vast array of roles (specifically from 2008) which have made him a figure to watch from here on in, but Streep, despite her accolades from previous years, has found herself in some lacklustre roles as of late. Doubt then, with its rich, multi-dimensional characters and interpersonal relations, finds Streep back at home, embodying her persona with vigour and a conviction that always finds the audience clamouring at her feet, but not at the expense of maintaining their attention. It's a somewhat humble, unassuming feature as a whole that will be easily misinterpreted by a few, but only a few. Instead, those looking for intelligent, layered and tangible character drama laced with plenty of thematic conjecture will find much to enjoy here. Of course, there is every reason to believe that the feature's lack of resolution or clear, objective stances will disgruntle those dimmed into expectations of cathartic, solidified resolves—but this in turn is the point of Doubt. Not only does it offer up food for thought, intrigue the heart and question the nature of our own convictions we may hold dear, but it also echoes those themes through its unavoidably ambiguous and unknowing nature. One thing that certainly is clear here however, is that Doubt exists as a complex, significant feature, brimming with subdued, nuanced life and important statements beyond which most cinematic fare avoids in favour of comfortable, solidified answers; it's a bold statement, and an endlessly intriguing and engrossing one at that.
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Excellent Acting and a Great Story
happyjuanpa31 October 2008
I really enjoyed this film. I saw it at the Opening night of the AFI FEST 2008. They (AFI) added this film 8 days before the opening, after they lost the original selected film (The Soloist) when the studio decided to move its release for March 2009, but without any doubts, it was a better choice to have this film instead. Not only me, but the audience were very amazed with the film. I think it's time to give another Oscar to that monster called MERYL STREEP, no more nominations. Every detail of her acting is outstanding, and believe me she did a job that glued your eyes to the screen. Also Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis deserve a nomination for those excellent jobs. A very strong film, well directed and excellently acted. Great adaptation of the theater play that I have saw in Broadway. The production designer did an excellent job as well as the photographer. Personally I congratulated the director for a great masterwork. doubts that will be a great contender for the industry awards. You will see.
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What Do We Do When We Are Not Sure?
claudio_carvalho11 June 2009
In 1964, the authoritarian and intolerant Principal of the Saint Nichols School, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), rules her school with iron hand, demanding strong discipline to the students and pressing the nuns under her command. When the naive Sister James (Amy Adams) raises suspicious against the progressive and charismatic Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to Sister Beauvier, believing that he might have made advances against the needy and only black student in the school, the prepotent nun begins a campaign to step the priest aside the parochial church, distrusting his explanations and without any evidence against him.

"Doubt" is a powerful drama about doubts and questionable certainties taking place in a Catholic school in the 60's. This feature is supported first by the magnificent performances of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead roles, and Amy Adams and Viola Davis in the support roles; the quartet really deserved their nominations to the Oscar. The theme doubt is justified by the awesome screenplay, with strong and witty lines, that gives powerful elements for the duel between the authoritarian Sister Beauvier that believes that she owns the absolute truth, and the supportive Father Flynn that wishes a progressive education and a welcoming church for his community. The priest's lectures about gossip, intolerance and farewell are simple, but vigorous and effective. The set decoration, landscapes and costumes show the lifestyle in Bronx in the 60's. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Dúvida" ("Doubt")
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Incredible Acting
Hitchcoc25 August 2009
This is a movie filled with memorable scenes. It really captures the Catholic private school milieu of the sixties. The nuns run the school and are overseen by a priest, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Things are a bit harsh, but deliberately so. Meryl Streep plays the principal of the school and is on a continuous campaign to keep the new wave of education reform out of her school. She becomes suspicious of the priest when he takes interest in the only black child in the school. She becomes particularly obsessed when the boy is called out of class for private council. This was in the pre-catholic priest as pedophile days, but it really strikes a chord today. What we are involved with is Streep's acting on her suspicions, coming from a possession of weakness (though she is not weak) as her role relates to the church. She is determined to get him, though she has no hard evidence. This isn't a big movie with flashy events. It takes place behind closed doors. One of the strongest characters in the movie is the boy's mother, who is called in to talk with the principal. There is a scene that will be viewed as one of the best and most real I've ever witnessed. Everyone has their A-game going here. This is an actor's movie.
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Fantastic acting, interesting story
sprintz113218 April 2009
Doubt could easily be dismissed as an Oscar-bait movie. An argument could be made that people are just distracted by the star-studded cast. This movie, however, is a testimony to how a performance driven film can be powerful, have substance, and hold its own against other, more exciting plot lines and visual effects. I've come to admire a movie that can stick to the script with no frills and Doubt surprised me in that it kept my attention all the way through with nothing but excellent character acting and a mystery.

Sr. Aloysius (Meryl Streep) plays a hard-tact nun with a strict obedience policy. When she learns from Sr. James (Amy Adams) about a possible odd occurrence between the parish priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the school's first black student, Donald Miller, Sr. Aloysius embarks on a crusade to prove Father Flynn's guilt. She has almost no proof whatsoever, but she has fervor and total conviction and she's convinced herself that nothing will stand in her way of doing the right thing. Flynn, the church's new, young priest has a substantial argument to confirm that he is completely blameless for any suspicions. Each side has a convincing stance…but is he guilty or isn't he? The sparks fly from the confrontations that happen between the two powerhouses of Streep and Hoffman. Their characters are so easy to make into villains but each portrays such strong convictions toward the greater good that it is near impossible to decide which is wrong. Streep is an absolute force of nature. Her portrayal of Aloysius is one of unchecked authority. In order to play a woman who nobody would dare question (lest they have a death wish), you must be believable, and Streep is purely authentic. Hoffman, too, blew me away. I can't imagine a more difficult person to portray, but he managed to pull off one of the most original performances I've ever seen.

In such an emotionally charged film, there also needs to be a strong protagonist. In this case, that role belongs to Sr. James, played in all her sweet, naïve glory by Adams.

The point in the movie in which the story fully rounds itself out is the confrontation between Sr. Aloysius and Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis). With a mere 12 minutes of screen time, Davis expels an incredible flood of emotion with careful restraint. Her performance is heart wrenching and beautiful at the same time.

I've noticed that some critics complain that the story lacks a big conclusion considering the heavy subject matter, but I think the final confrontation between Aloysius and Flynn is something of a grand finale. It tells you and I, as viewers, that we're pretty much never going to know who is blameworthy. Both of them will not budge and the story comes to a screeching halt. Ending the movie the way they did end it was a brave choice. They didn't simply hand us the answer to the main question, they allow us to figure it out for ourselves.

My grade: A-
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