December 25th, 2008



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Still of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in DoubtStill of Meryl Streep and John Patrick Shanley in DoubtMeryl Streep and Cherry Jones at event of DoubtStill of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep in DoubtStill of Meryl Streep in DoubtStill of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt

In a Bronx Catholic school in 1964 a popular priest's ambiguous relationship with a troubled 12 year old black student is questioned by the school's principal.

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 7.6/10 (52,156 voted)

Critic's Score: 68/100

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Stars: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams

It's 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the schools' strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the community, and indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shard of proof besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn which threatens to tear apart the community with irrevocable consequences.

Writers: John Patrick Shanley, John Patrick Shanley

Meryl Streep - Sister Aloysius Beauvier
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Father Brendan Flynn
Amy Adams - Sister James
Viola Davis - Mrs. Miller
Alice Drummond - Sister Veronica
Audrie Neenan - Sister Raymond
Susan Blommaert - Mrs. Carson
Carrie Preston - Christine Hurley
John Costelloe - Warren Hurley
Lloyd Clay Brown - Jimmy Hurley
Joseph Foster - Donald Miller (as Joseph Foster II)
Mike Roukis - William London
Haklar Dezso - Zither Player
Frank Shanley - Kevin
Robert Ridgell - Organist

Taglines: There is no evidence. There are no witnesses. But for one, there is no doubt.


Official Website: Miramax [United States] | Official site [Japan] |

Release Date: 25 December 2008

Filming Locations: Beach and Mansion Streets, Bronx, New York City, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $507,226 (USA) (14 December 2008) (15 Screens)

Gross: $33,422,556 (USA) (5 April 2009)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

When filming was over, director John Patrick Shanley sent Amy Adams the Nativity Scene that Sister Veronica puts together near the end of the film as a gift.

Revealing mistakes: William is sent home for having a bloody nose. He walks through an intersection with crosswalk indicators. The traffic signal changes from red to green, but the crosswalk indicators don't change.

[first lines]
Christine Hurley: Jimmy? Come on! You're serving today.

User Review

To Doubt Is Human

Rating: 8/10

"Doubt can be a bond as strong as fear." If ever there was a time in our country's recent history where that line carried the force of relevance, it's now.

And though it's set in the early 1960s (roughly a year after the Kennedy assassination), there's no doubt that John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his own Pulitzer-Prize winning stage play is a response to these dark times, when the only thing that seems to be uniting Americans is their collective insecurity and ever-weakening belief that things are going to get better.

At the center of "Doubt" is the mystery of whether or not a priest (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is guilty of taking advantage of an altar boy. The priest's primary (and really sole) prosecutor is Sister Aloysius, the uber-stern and terrifying principal of the Catholic school that provides "Doubt" its setting. Watching Hoffman and Streep spar is like watching two professional tennis players at their best, and fans of expert movie acting should waste no time in seeing the sparks fly between these two. The movie purposely never clarifies the ambiguity of the charges -- is Hoffman's priest truly guilty of something, or is Sister Aloysius simply on a mad witch hunt? Streep's character is the most fascinating. From one perspective, she's a nearly maniacal harpie, intent on ruining a man's life and career for no clear reason. However, if her accusations are legitimate, she's a sort of hero, demanding justice from a male-dominated world that's willing to look the other way. Streep's performance is something fascinating to behold -- she can convey more with an arched eyebrow than another actor can with his entire face.

Amy Adams gets the pivotal role of a young, innocent nun who first brings her suspicions about the priest to her superior, and then sees them become Frankenstein's monster. In many ways, Adams' character is us, the audience, placed in the position of having to come to a conclusion on our own when empirical evidence is lacking. Adams' role is the least showy, but she does much with it.

And then there's Viola Davis, who, in five minutes of screen time, decimates the audience with some shocking conclusions of her own as the altar boy's mother. The insulated, hushed world of the Catholic Church is blown wide open by this struggling mother, who's seen more of the world than any of the priests and nuns sheltered behind the church's walls, and who puts the film's running themes of racial and gender inequality into harsh perspective.

The central conflict in "Doubt" in many ways comes down to each individual's view of the world and his or her ability to accept the ambiguity of day to day living. There's a lot about the world we will never know and much about our futures we'll never be able to control. So what's better -- anticipating the worst and therefore being prepared when it comes; or believing in the best and running the risk of being disappointed when it fails to arise? The movie just poses this question -- it doesn't try to answer it.

"Doubt" is not a fancy movie and will win no awards for its cinematic audacity. But in looking back at the movies of 2008, I imagine it will stand as one of the best-acted films of the year.

Grade: A


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