Multi-genre film

Courtesy Goodspeed Productions

When you hear that a film can be categorized as a drama, suspense and mystery, what cinematic qualities come to mind? You might say that it’s probably full of violence, blood, drugs or even sex. Using these facets, this type of film is portrayed quite easily.

It’s uncommon for a film to consider itself within one or all of the aforementioned genres without showing nudity, drug use or some form of violence. It seems completely implausible to create what is, essentially, a thriller with a single swear, no violence, no nudity or sex and no drugs. Yet it seems even more absurd that this film would be effective in keeping its audience interested and entertained from beginning to end.

Believe it or not, such a film exists in the form of John Patrick Shanley’s ‘Doubt.’ Originally written as a play, ‘Doubt’ was a hit on Broadway and won a variety of Tony Awards including Best Play, in addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005. Shanley adapted his performance into a screenplay, and put his own name on the back of the director’s chair.

The story is set in 1964 in the Bronx. Sister Aloysius, played by Meryl Streep (‘The Deer Hunter,’ ‘The Devil Wears Prada’), is the very traditional, stern principal of St. Nicholas Church School. She has the school running efficiently and has complete authority until her only superior, Father Brendan Flynn, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman (‘The Savages,’ ‘Capote’), begins to have what may be too close of a relationship with Donald Miller, the first black student in the school.

Sister James, played by Amy Adams (‘Enchanted’), is the young, docile and na’iuml;ve teacher who begins to notice peculiar behavior in both the boy and Father Flynn. When it seems as though things are getting worse by the day, she approaches the daunting Sister Aloysius with her suspicions.

‘Doubt’ is without question one of the best films of the year. Its strength is within the performances of Streep, Hoffman and Adams. Not only are their roles extremely convincing, but they are fascinating as well. Hoffman as Father Flynn is compelling and a hundred percent credible. Coming from someone who went to Catholic school their whole life, the way he interacts with the boys in the school and the way they look up to him is right on. He wins them over and through that, wins the audience over too.

Streep is absolutely terrifying as Sister Aloysius. Again, coming from first-hand experience, there is not a single woman in the world who could have played this part as true to life as Streep. When she speaks, the audience listens and straightens their backs in their seats. Streep has an intonation in this film that demands respect and discipline. In turn, her attitude conveys a tough, conservative and horribly stubborn principal that the film works itself around to create its gripping plot.

The scenes where these two interact are the most memorable scenes in the movie. The power and the passion they put into their roles shine brilliantly in their clashes.

Amy Adams and Viola Davis also deliver unforgettable performances. Both were nominated for the Golden Globe for best supporting actress, and are nominated in the same category for the Academy Awards. Davis’ role as Donald’s mother is quite unique, only appearing in two scenes in the whole film. In one scene, she does not speak a single word and is only on the screen for about 10 seconds. She certainly used her screen time with as much quality as she possibly could for the amount of time she had.

The film as a whole was overwhelmingly successful, primarily due to the outstanding acting and innovative style it was done with. The one bit of the film that has been heralded as the only flaw is its ending. Without spoiling the film, the most that can be said is that it leaves you wanting more and almost seems incomplete. It can be interpreted in a number of ways, and Shanley has been very open about not revealing the question the film leaves you with. It certainly was not an accident, and in itself reflects the thesis of the film.

‘Doubt’ may seem to drag at times for some, but most people should find it intriguing. Excuse the redundancy, but it is the textbook depiction of the characters in the film that make it make it so illustrious.

Justin Gagnon can be reached at [email protected]