Peter M Howard ::

wintermute.com.au

Doubt

23January2009 [movies]
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In which doubt turns to suspicion

In Philip Seymour Hoffman’s opening sermon, he makes the argument that, essentially, doubt is as much a part of faith as is certainty. The image of a community sharing the burden of doubt, and of questioning, is beautiful. It’s not something I’d really heard put into words before, though the idea has been nagging at me for years, and is why I’m always bothered by talk of blind faith and unwavering certainty.

This opening gave me great hope for the move that, unfortunately, it couldn’t live up to. Gradually the ‘doubt’ of the film’s title becomes suspicion, and by the end of the film is entirely divorced from faith of any sort.

Though failing to live up to its promise, it wasn’t a bad film. The story is an important one — of suspicion, and of people desperately talking around the topic of child abuse — trapped, as they were, by the power structures in place at the time. It’s possible to realise just how abuse by priests stayed unmentioned for so long — the people aware of it were in no position (within the Church) to do anything about it, and those with such authority, when it was brought to their attention, didn’t want to admit the reality.

The cast is superb. Seymour Hoffman is remarkable as always, as is Meryl Streep, perfectly capturing the public and private personas of her strict headmistress. Amy Adams is radiant as the joyful, innocent young nun. And Joseph Foster shines in his few moments on screen as Donald, a troubled boy uncertain of his identity and his position.

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