DRAMA; 1hr 44min
STARRING: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Principal concern: Streep and Hoffman
“Doubt,” parish priest Father Flynn (Hoffman) offers a packed St Nicholas Church in the Bronx of 1964, “can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty.” Such is the keynote of writer-director John Patrick Shanley’s dour religious drama — adapted from his 2005 stage play — about the destructive power of certitude. Flynn is a compassionate, progressive man, which works against him when, at the tentative suggestion of a young teacher (Adams), reactionary St Nicholas school principal Sister Aloysius (Streep) becomes convinced he is inappropriately involved with a 12-year-old black male student (Joseph Foster II). Being a gnarly whip-cracker and a Rottweiler when her hackles are raised, Flynn’s denials count for nothing to the Sister and she is determined to be rid of him. Beware answered prayers.
The thunderous atmospherics did little for me — even La Streep seemed strained at times, good God. And the topic is so ambiguous and unpleasantly apropos that watching it evolve into a lecture in semantics felt more like a hefty moral obligation than anything approaching a pleasure.