A Catholic grade school could seem like a hermetically sealed world in 1964. That's the case with St. Nicholas in the Bronx, ruled by the pathologically severe principal Sister Aloysius, who keeps the students and nuns under her thumb and is engaged in an undeclared war with the new parish priest. Their issues may seem to center around the reforms of Vatican II, then still under way, with Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as the progressive, but for the nun I believe it's more of a power struggle. The pope's infallibility seems, in her case, to have descended to the parish level.
Some will say the character of Sister Aloysius, played without a hint of humor by Meryl Streep, is a caricature. In my eight years of Catholic school, not a one of the Dominican nuns was anything but kind and dedicated, and I was never touched, except by Sister Ambrosetta's thunking forefinger to the skull in first grade. But I clearly remember being frightened by Sister Gilberta, the principal; being sent to her office in second or third grade could loosen your bowels. She never did anything mean. She just seemed to be able to.
Sister Aloysius of "Doubt" hates all inroads of the modern world, including ballpoint pens. This is accurate. We practiced our penmanship with fountain pens, carefully heading every page "JMJ" -- for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, of course. Under Aloysius' command is the sweet young Sister James (Amy Adams, from "Junebug"), whose experience in the world seems limited to what she sees out the convent window. Gradually during the autumn semester, a Situation develops.
There is one African-American student at St. Nicholas, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II), and Father Flynn encourages him in sports and appoints him as an altar boy. This is all proper. Then Sister James notes that the priest summons the boy to the rectory alone. She decides this is improper behavior, and informs Aloysius, whose eyes narrow like a beast of prey. Father Flynn's fate is sealed.
But "Doubt" is not intended as a docudrama about possible sexual abuse. Directed by John Patrick Shanley from his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play, it is about the title word, doubt, in a world of certainty. For Aloysius, Flynn is certainly guilty. That the priest seems innocent, that Sister James comes to believe she was mistaken in her suspicions, means nothing. Flynn knows a breath of scandal would destroy his career. And that is the three-way standoff we watch unfolding with precision and tension.
Something else happens. The real world enters this sealed, parochial battlefield. Donald's mother (Viola Davis) fears her son will be expelled from the school. He has been accused of drinking the altar wine. Worse, of being given it by Father Flynn. She appeals directly to Sister Aloysius, in a scene as good as any I've seen this year. It lasts about 10 minutes, but it is the emotional heart and soul of "Doubt," and if Viola Davis isn't nominated by the Academy, an injustice will have been done. She goes face to face with the pre-eminent film actress of this generation, and it is a confrontation of two equals that generates terrifying power.
Doubt. It is the subject of the sermon Father Flynn opens the film with. Doubt was coming into the church and the United States in 1964. Would you still go to hell if you ate meat on Friday? After the assassination of Kennedy and the beginnings of Vietnam, doubt had undermined American certainty in general. What could you be sure of? What were the circumstances? The motives? The conflict between Aloysius and Flynn is the conflict between old and new, between status and change, between infallibility and uncertainty. And Shanley leaves us doubting. I know people who are absolutely certain what conclusion they should draw from this film. They disagree. "Doubt" has exact and merciless writing, powerful performances and timeless relevance. It causes us to start thinking with the first shot, and we never stop. Think how rare that is in a film.
Analysis Paper on "Doubt"
1120 WordsJun 4th, 20125 Pages
“A Bond as Powerful as Certainty” A person’s doubts can cloud their judgment on certain tasks at hand. On the other hand, a person’s certainty can blind someone from the truth. The argument ofDoubt versus Certainty is relevant today in the sense that it is the main argument for and against religion. The theory of doubt can also be used in literary works for a number of reasons. In John Patrick Shanley’s movie/play Doubt, the theme of “certainty versus doubt” is shown throughout the story to signify the importance of characterization and to symbolize the importance that a person must be cautious of the people around them.
In the movie Doubt, the idea of certainty versus doubt is a central theme to the story. Doubt and certainty are…show more content…
Sister Aloysius does not have any evidence yet she is certain that Father Flynn is guilty. Shanley is illustrating that one does not need evidence to be confident about a given claim. In this way, Shanley illustrates through the concept of doubt that a person can be right about a given suspicion without any proof.
The significance behind certainty versus doubt in Doubt has to do with the characterization of both Sister James and Sister Aloysius. The characters’ stance on certainty versus doubt divides the characters’ personalities. Sister Aloysius has a confident and strong willed character throughout the story while Sister James is shown to have a very insecure personality and is usually shown to be unclear about situations. This characterization is shown when Sister James and Sister Aloysius talk about William London’s bloody nose. Sister Aloysius is convinced that William London’s bloody nose was self-induced while Sister James believes that William is innocent. Sister Aloysius’ suspicion about William is proven to be right when William is heading home, “He has a bloody handkerchief to his nose. He’s in a good mood. He takes the handkerchief away. The nose has stopped bleeding. He smiles. He lights a cigarette.” (Shanley Script, pg 18) This foreshadows the reactions taken by both Sister James and Sister Aloysius when it comes to determining Father Flynn’s credibility. Shanley does this to give the reader an idea of how Sisters James