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Year: 2008 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by John Patrick Shanley 
Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis  
An image from Doubt

Doubt is set in 1964, as value systems from different eras clash together. It sees Sister Aloysius's (Meryl Streep) traditional, discipline-based education be challenged by Father Flynn's (Philip Seymour Hoffman) modern values. Soon, the school is accepting its first black student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), but when Sister Aloysius starts to suspect, without evidence, Father Flynn of abusing the child, she fights harder than ever to get the child out of the school.

Doubt tackles a multitude of political, religious and cultural issues: racial discrimination, gender discrimination, the role of discipline in education, the religious-secular divide, paedophilia, and the presumption of innocence. Still, these all come into play in a natural manner, and Doubt is not a mere patchwork of various politically engaged messages. The film revolves around the story of one person whose world dramatically changes over a short period.

Sister Aloysius starts off as the person in charge, and gradually turns into the underdog. Her fight to get Donald Miller off the school embodies her fight against a changing world, and a struggle to remain in control. This is why her conviction, without any shred of evidence, of Father Flynn's guilt, makes so much sense. The strength of Doubt is in its plot, which is both very complex and built around one single, simple theme. Its complexity reflects the struggle of Sister Aloysius's simple, monochromatic world turning into a can of controversial questions. However, the end result would not work quite as well as it does if the acting and the photography did not follow this shift from simplicity to complexity. Yet all actors, especially Meryl Streep, are all up to the challenge, giving Doubt a massive four Academy Awards acting nominations. All in all, Doubt is a very strong work: a film you should undoubtedly watch.

Pierre Schramm

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Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Summer Term (35mm)