Movies – Without a Doubt, “Doubt” is the Movie of

Movies – Without a Doubt, “Doubt” is the Movie of the Year 2008

The movie “Doubt (2008)” is an experience you shouldn’t miss. It’s a moral roller-coaster and ethical juggernaut of a story brought to life by two of the finest actors you can find in any country on any continent: Philip Seymour Hoffman (as Father Brendan Flynn) and Meryl Streep (as the sister with the impossible name: Aloysius Beauvier).

The plot is both very simple and not so very simple. Sister Aloysius is a disciplinarian. She thinks modernity is relaxing people and sapping away their character and faith. That’s why she is even against using ballpoint pen in the church school. She is a hard-as-nails woman suspicious of anything and everything around her – which betrays her hunger for control and power as well.

Opposite her is Father Flynn, a beautiful compassionate man who is trying to change the stodgy old ways of the church and welcome all parishioners regardless of their imperfections. He thinks the church should be more like the people; an idea which Da Sister abhors. She thinks people actually enjoy the priests and nuns be very different from the common folks and that’s why they believe in them and continue to have faith in the church.

Into this dyad, steps in Sister James, played by another actor of note and immense talent, Amy Adams, an Irish beauty with clear eyes which reminds me of a younger Jane Fonda. (SIDEBAR: I hope Adams will manage her career better.)

Sister James observes certain things about Father Flynn. Just impressions. Snippets of sense data. She “catches” Father Flynn dropping something into the locker of the only African American student in the church school, Donald (played by Joseph Foster). She is aware that Father has met with this boy ALONE in his room. Hmmm… that the kid was caught with ALCOHOL on his breath… another hmmm… The question “is there really anything going on here?” somehow spins into “what’s exactly going on here?” in the mind of the impressionable Sister James.

Then, Sister James, in all her naivete, commits the monumental blunder of sharing her “doubt” with Da Sister General, who is also the principal of the school. And the rest is a huge machine of innuendo, picking up speed and becoming a head-on train wreck, a spectacle which forces us to question our very own assumptions about what’s a fact and what’s a gossip? To what extend should we trust our own assumptions about “human nature”?

The very last scene of this great film throws in a monkey wrench so fast that you can never see it coming. And the film ends right there, leaving you stunned as though you’re zapped by a taser gun, without any adequate cooling off period to come back to your senses. You’ll go home fighting back your tears and looking deep into your own heart about the way you went through similar situations in your own past, sometimes in flying colors and sometimes in colors that faded fast into mediocrity and moral self-righteousness. You’ll be touched.

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