February 09, 2009
By Hilary Rowe *

By Hilary Rowe *

Based on the trailer for writer/director John Patrick Shanley’s recent film, I expected Doubt to be a predictable cheap shot at the Catholic priesthood. Since the sexual abuse scandals of recent memory, it has been far too easy for filmmakers and media outlets to demonize the clergy. Because Doubt deals directly with the topic of clerical sexual abuse, I pegged this movie as more of the same.

I was surprised and relieved to find that Shanley presents a fair and nuanced portrait of the American Catholic Church in the 1960s and of the issues involved in accusing someone of such a serious offense. Doubt achieves a difficult balance, being simultaneously respectful of authority and critical of those who abuse their authority.

The story takes place at St. Nicholas Catholic parish and parochial school in New York City in 1964. Sister Aloysius is the principal of the school, and she is a rigid disciplinarian. Father Flynn, the parish pastor, takes a more casual approach to ministry, befriending students and preaching compassionate homilies. These two adversaries are brought to life by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose skillful portrayals constitute the film’s most outstanding artistic achievement.

From the beginning, Sr. Aloysius obviously dislikes Fr. Flynn’s personality and methods, and she eventually grows to suspect him of an illicit relationship with one of the male students. The initially simplistic personalities of both characters acquire impressive complexity throughout the film as we see strict Sr. Aloysius tenderly caring for her elderly sisters and grow to wonder whether Fr. Flynn is in fact guilty.

Doubt is based on a stage play written by Shanley himself, who also adapted it for the screen. The play is the source of the film’s intelligent writing, but this also seems to be a cinematic drawback. The confined setting and abundance of dialogue give the film a bit of a stagy feel, although Shanley works well with what he has. I encourage all adults to see Doubt, but would only recommend it to mature young people because of the difficulty of the subject matter.

Hilary Rowe received her B.A. in Film Studies and English Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2005.  Since then she has worked in campus ministry for FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.  She currently serves as FOCUS Team Director at the University of Colorado.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic

Liturgical Calendar

April 18, 2014

Friday of the Passion of the Lord (Good Friday)

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Jn 18:1 - 19:42


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Is 52:13-53:12
Second Reading:: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Gospel:: Jn 18:1-19:42

Homily of the Day

Jn 18:1 - 19:42


Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
Text only

Follow us: