10 February 2009


I managed to catch Doubt yesterday (Phillip Seymour Hoffmann and Meryl Streep) while in Palmerston North - I knew hubby didn't really want to see it and I had a whole evening to fill in up there.

Story in a nutshell: Catholic parochial school run by Sisters of Charity. Prioress Sister Aloysius (Streep) believes that the new parish priest (Hoffmann) is molesting the school's first black student (also an altar boy). Sister Aloysius asks the very innocent novice Sister James (Amy Adams) to watch Father Flynn in her classes. Sister Aloysius doesn't want Father Flynn at the school as she believes that he is too progressive and is fighting to have him removed. Sr James isn't sure whether Father Flynn is guilty and is drawn into the battle.

It's excellent. Acting was really superb, with lots of little undercurrents - progressive v. traditionalist, male v. female, nun v. priest, white v. black etc. It's an adaptation from a play and it really shows, with emphasis on just a few characters, a short time frame (about a month), very tight scripting (beautifully crafted words and images), but very complex characters. Streep is really brilliant as the repressed, passionate, frightened, strong, and quite terrifying Sister Aloysius; Amy Adams brings a gentleness and strength to her wide-eyed Sister James, and Hoffmann portrays the complex, confused, and caring Father Flynn. It reminds me a bit of Arthur Millar's All My Sons in terms of its complexity and questioning.

I've got a lot to think about, but what keeps coming back to me is what a former parish priest of mine said to me years ago when I was struggling with doubt in a huge "dark night" experience: "Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Unbelief is the opposite of faith."

Doubt to me is wrestling with God - a bit like Job - being prepared to ask the tough questions and live with them. I always want my answers to come easily and quickly, but sometimes God wants me to stay with the questions because its in those times I learn most. Sr Aloysius, Sr James, and Fr Flynn were all asking tough questions and finding the fellowship of doubt. I like Fr Flynn's image of doubt as being a little like grief - shut up behind a glass wall that you can see through but not reach through (can't remember the exact words). That is where we grow.

I highly recommend this one if you like your movies quite thought-provoking and a bit unresolved - at the end we still don't know whether Father Flynn did it or not!

Pachyderm tssf

No comments: