Movie Review: Some “Doubt” by Heloise
As one who has spent twelve-plus years in parochial school in Chicago, St. Anselm and Mercy CHS to be exact the one thing that Catholic-schooled children know well are the ways of the nuns and sisters. The movie Doubt portrays life in such a Catholic setting. The watch word is “strict,” not critical. Strictness is what you remember about going to Catholic school and being taught by nuns. They brooke no arguments therefore are never critical. I mean what’s there to criticize when your word is law?
While nuns may not wear the garments of criticism Heloise does share some critical doubts about Doubt. Meryl Streep is once again nominated for best actress in this little film. Viola Davis is also nominated as best supporting actress. And I can tell you Viola nearly takes nun Meryl’s habit off while they argue in a “bring it” manner on the cold snowy streets near the school her son attends.
Sister Streep is cold, calculating and critical of the priest who is also the pastor of the school. He hears confessions and says mass on Sundays. The object of his affection is a young black boy who is also one of the altar boys. He craves the attention of the priest because he is the token black student in the school. That happens in Catholic school but more often than not. The schools are typically segregated just like the public schools except that they are not housed in run-down shanties as so many black public schools in the deep South.
Streep plays spiritual foil to that other great male actor Philip Seymore Hofman. One can easily worship at his altar . He delivers another crack performance as the suspicious priest of Doubt. When the token black boy is picked on he is there to literally help him pick up the pieces that some boys have slapped to the floor.
Priest Hofman seems well, sleezy enough, but then that is not the plan. Priests aught to be above suspicion and this is the mantra of Sister Streep–we suspect you therefore we doubt you therefore you must go.
He does go but we know how that will end. We know that he will get another rectory and another chance to appear “suspicious.” We also get a peek inside the classroom of Sister Amy. She is a new, nervous, shaky teacher who cannot handle the nice little white kids in her charge. That lack of control in Catholic classrooms in my day and the day of this film is just about as rare as married priests, again doubtful.
While I have no direct experience or knowledge of priest doing wrong and wrong doings sexual or otherwise, I have followed those who have experienced this betrayal. And this is the other thing that makes this movie doubtful in my eyes–why would a mother let her son be abused knowingly? This is what Viola’s charater asks us to believe. We should not doubt that it is urgent that her son be accpeted, educated and graduated.
Doubt is a short film, not a very convincing film despite four very fine performances from the cast. Four stars would be one too many for this film. But I do recommend it. Will Meryl pull it off again? Stay tuned for my Oscar predictions.