Yesterday evening I saw the movie Doubt with friends, some who are recovering Catholics and one who was once a nun.
As the end credits rolled up on the screen I turned to a friend and whispered, "Well, that movie won't be sending anyone rushing back into the arms of the Church!"
Doubt was directed and written by John Patrick Shanley who adapted it from his own stage play. Shanley has mined his New York Bronx Irish Catholic background brilliantly in the past and produced many theatrical and cinematic gems. I was seduced and transported by Moonstruck, which was directed by our own Norman Jewison.
But Doubt left me cold. It is a parable, there is no doubt about that, but its adaptation into a movie did not feel entirely successful. As drama, it must have been riveting to the audience who witnessed the verbal confrontations between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn.
"Doubt has gotten a bad reputation. People who are utterly certain are vulnerable to a brand of foolishness that people who maintain a level of doubt are not." - John Patrick Shanley, explaining why audiences are left to decide for themselves whether Sister Aloysius is wise or overly zealous in her determination to expose the charismatic Father Flynn as a pedophile. (11/20/04 New York Times, interview with David Cote).
In the sixties, nuns never challenged the actions of priests, to do so was to transgress the hierarchal authority of the clergy. The dialogue is minimalist and powerful. But the direction and cinematography of critical scenes did not do justice to the words and to the rigour of the actors' performance, in my opinion.
Doubt was a good movie, it simply didn't have the power and the cinematic excellence of another film that it brings to mind, Agnes of God.