When I first saw Doubt in the theater, I left not really knowing what to think. You could say I left with doubts about Doubt (cheap joke, I know). The film ends rather abruptly and it caught me off-guard. This led me to not really care for the film, but over the next couple of months I found myself coming back to the movie several times in my thoughts. Because of this, it seemed fair to give the film a second chance.
Based on the Pulitzer-winning play penned by John Patrick Shanley, who also adapted the play into the screenplay for the film, Doubt is set in 1964 New York City. With the country still reeling from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the cultural upheaval of the Civil Rights Movement, and with the Catholic Church in the midst of Vatican II, the film capitalizes on a period filled with conflict and hope, doubt and certainty.
Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is a nun and principal of St. Nicholas school in the Bronx. She is a cold, brooding character whom everyone fears and who rules the school with an iron fist. The antithesis of Sister Aloysius is Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a progressive priest who envisions a welcoming church whose congregants consider the nuns and priests of their local parish as members of their families. Caught between them is the meek, naive, blank slate of a nun, Sister James (Amy Adams). Sister James vacillates between the friendly, lovable disposition of Father Flynn and the dragon-like character of Sister Aloysius. The situation becomes more complicated when Sister James notices some peculiar actions of Donald Miller, the school's only African American student, and Father Flynn. She alerts Sister Aloysius to the goings-on and Sister Aloysius becomes convinced of impropriety between the Father and the student and begins an intense campaign to oust the priest from the school and the parish.