Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman co-star in this film based on the Tony Award-winning play of the same name. The creator of that play writes and directs.
The reasons why it won the Tony become clear and remain clear from beginning to end. It certainly is an interesting and affecting story, well-written, and dead set on existing merely to raise questions and challenge thoughts, which it clearly does.
The overriding question is did Hoffman's character, Father Flynn, a progressive and compassionate priest, molest a 15-year-old, black, altar boy at his New York school. It starts with a few suspicions. Flynn is seen as being a little too close to this students, and altar boys. It then evolves into an ideological battle with a ton of psychological and sociological implications.
Obviously, Streep and Hoffman, two Oscar-winning actors, are superb. Their battle of wills are some of the best exchanges put to screen in 2008. It's all great, and, the scenes are well played. The only problem is that it becomes less about the possible molestation or even the issue of the pedophilia problem within the Catholic church.
It would have been nice, if they made the film a real examination of that, instead of a simple show-and-tell of what doubt means. I suppose that makes the movie broader and more representative of things in society. Yet, in many ways, the film feels very insulated.
The acting more than makes up for it. One scene that really stands out and breaks the film out is one between Streep, who plays the school's principal, a strict, disciplinary nun, and, Viola Davis, who plays Mrs. Muller, the mother of the possibly molested boy. What's revealed in that scene is so engrossing and powerful that you become as windswept as the leaves and feathers you see flying later.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for thematic material
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.