‘Doubt’ directed by John Patrick Shanley is a film that hits high notes due to the top notch acting talent. It’s also got a good gritty disturbing layer of paranoia that adds to the possibly sinister religious backdrop.
The story based on Shanley’s own play is about suspicion and faith. Has a priest committed something wholly wrong against a young boy? This question lingers throughout and you can certainly tell this is a plot ripe for stage with it’s brewing content and clashes of faith and character. It does sort of work on screen but that is due to the strong performances from the main cast of actors. The unfortunate transition from this Pulitzer/Tony award winning play to movie is that it becomes a slow burner where the story unfortunately seems to lull at times, points that if watched as a play would probably be more dramatic and atmospheric than they are when put to screen.
Meryl Streep as Aloysius, a sister and the school principal is without a doubt the key element of power in this film. She hooks onto her worries with Father Flynn and doesn’t let go, even with the brilliantly innocent and kind hearted acting of Amy Adams as Sister James, you start to doubt whether Flynn is good or not. The idea of kindness being a block to virtue is an interesting one and the clear opposites between Streep’s and Adams’ characters make for an interesting and opposing set of ideals and that with Streep’s powerhouse performance, we see her bend Adams to her will and soon they both look at Flynn as being guilty. Viola Davis was underused but in her short screentime she showed what a fantastic actress she is, specifically when breaking down in the presence of Streep. Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent as always and the scene between him and Streep is great. A ferocious display of acting supremacy with the characters being at loggerheads, though there are subdued moments within the heated meeting that make the entire scene even more engaging.
The metaphorical imagery at times felt either forced or just added to the slow feeling of the movie. What with looking at a crow as an obvious allusion to something foreboding, light and dark being explored through light bulbs and blinds and seeing an eye in stained glass as something almighty watching Flynn’s every move. The best metaphor came from Flynn’s speech about a confession with a beautiful analogy about gossip which arrived on screen with a gorgeously set up shot of falling feathers.
It looked great in places with close ups of religious iconography or point of views to fully confirm the theme of paranoia and doubt, an example of this is between Adams and Hoffman where canted low angle shots provide an unsettling imagery of trust and faith being questioned.
Overall the film is a quite interesting one concerning the worry of religion and right and wrong, made better with stellar performances being the main plus point, but perhaps it’s a story suited to a stage life.