Sunday, October 4, 2009

Doubt

Sister Aloysious Beauvier—some name, huh?—played by Meryl Streep is the principal of a church-run school. One of the teachers is Sister James (Amy Adams) who reports that a black student in her class came back with alcohol in his breath after a private meeting with Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the parish priest. When Sister James confides this to Sister Aloysious, the principal is convinced that the priest abused the child—she just knew.

Father Flynn is confronted, of course, so he demands for further proof. But there isn't any, except for the deep-seated conviction of Sister Aloysious, who is, at that point, determined to remove the priest from the school.

When, in the middle of the movie, Father Flynn begins his sermon on gossip, mainly to refute the accusations against him, I knew I was going to enjoy Doubt.

In the pulpit, he tells of a story of a woman who came to a priest to confess because she spread malicious gossip against her neighbor. The priest advised her to go back to her house, cut her pillow, and throw the contents outside of her window. The feathers flew in all places, she told the priest when she came back to him. In the movie, this is the scene where the feathers fall like white snow in slow motion. The priest then told her that, for her to be forgiven, she had to gather each feather again. The woman said that it was impossible. Exactly my point, the priest said. That is gossip. You can't take back what you've said.

Sister James is torn, as she is unsure of what she saw. Father Flynn's story seemed reasonable enough, but she finds it hard to disagree with the principal, too. To whom will she take side on?

The movie illustrates how sowing doubt can destroy a person's credibility, and that people often act, not with the firm knowledge of the truth but with the fake semblance of it—a gut feeling, perhaps.

I enjoyed Doubt immensely. It's well-crafted and intelligent. Go see it.

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