Although it has already been discussed here and here, now that I have seen the 2008 film Doubt, during a 12 hour flight across the Pacific, I will throw in my two cents. Meryl Streep was great as Sr. Aloysius, but then I expected nothing less. The other performances were strong as well, with Philip Seymour Hoffman exuding all the classic unctuousness of a predator. I would have suspected him, too. It was Sr. Aloysius' sacred duty to protect her students; she handled the situation well.
However, in my years of attending parochial school and later as a lay teacher at a girls' academy run by nuns, I never saw a sister shriek across the schoolyard the way Sr. Aloysius does in the movie. I never saw a nun strike a child at Mass. I know such things happened but not in my experience. Now the nuns who taught us at St. John's in Frederick may have raised their voices but they did not shriek and usually they could maintain order just by a glance. The sound of the Sr. Mariana's heels clicking down the corridor was enough to send a shiver of silence throughout the school. Most nuns whom I have known have been able to command respect without histrionics. I think it has something to do with the discipline of the religious life; striving to master oneself makes it easier to master others.
Also, real nuns are not afraid of what anyone thinks. They do not mince words; they will tell you what you need to hear if they think it is for your own good, which is a terrifying prospect indeed. The good effect of this is that if you have been around nuns long enough, you can lose your own inordinate fears of what people think. In this regard, the portrayal of Sr. Aloysius was on target.
My main criticism of the film is that there was not a single admirable male character to counterbalance the creepy priest with long fingernails, the indifferent bishop, and the father who beats up his little boy. I wish they had shown at least one positive clerical character to give lie to the idea that the Catholic Church was infested by perverts. It is such an insult to the majority of priests who have given their lives to serve God's people.
The breviary with the green covers bothered me, especially since the camera kept focusing on it. Certainly it would not have been terribly difficult to find a black breviary with red edged pages such as was used at the time. The producers must think we are ignorant of our own religion.
And I did not understand why Sr. Aloysius was weeping about having "doubts" at the end of the film. The only matter for doubt in her regard was when she said to Fr. Flynn that she was going to expose him, even if it meant sending her own soul to hell. Perhaps she said it just for effect...I was taught never to make a risky statement about the afterlife, especially about one's potential damnation, never. It was one of the aspects of Doubt that struck a bizarre note in an otherwise excellent production. Share