As the holiday season approaches, it's normal for us to be berated with religious images and messages. Normally, though, they aren't disparaging or metaphorical in nature (not intentionally, anyway). Doubt is an exception to this observance. While timely in its subject matter (namely Pedophilia in the church) its themes and locations transcend what is on the facade and dig down into deeper motifs, such as intolerance, progression and, of course, trust. Transition into new and uncharted territories is a double-edged sword that is unsheathed in this film; it asks "is progression good?" Does taking the risk of abandoning antiquated (yet steadfast) ideas pave the way for something better, or does it end in misery? Meryl Streep as the suspicious Sister Aloysius questions the integrity of the new priest played by philip Seymour Hoffman by criticizing everything from his fingernails to his use of a ballpoint pen; it isn't until a naive nun (Amy Adams) smells wine on a young boys breath, though, that Sister Aloysius vows for the expungement of the new priest.
To give the ending away in one fell swoop, we as viewers are left in the dark. And as it should be. Too often we are coddled and given the answers in a nice little Christmas package, but the fact of the matter is, we never know. Recently, my godfather Monsignor Capua was accused with the molestation of a young boy some twenty years ago, and has since left the parish and moved to Massachusetts. He was never found guilty of the crime, or even charged with it I believe, but it has nevertheless ruined his reputation. Did he do it, though? I couldn't tell. He never touched me, but the incident happened before I was even born. Considering the track record with priests these days, it's possible, but aside from that there's no real proof. Uncertainty is probably one of the more dangerous concepts floating around, considering that the correctly chosen words can be forcefully damaging to a person's integrity or reputation, whether factual or not. The slightest utterance of a carefully chosen rumor is grounds enough to ruin a life, no matter if it's true or false.
Doubt hosts a spectacular production that poses these questions to the audience and, horror of horrors, actually makes them think. John Patrick Shanely's screenplay is simply divine, but this comes as to no surprise seeing as he penned the play it was based upon, too. His direction is remarkable, considering it was his first go-around in that particular area. And, of course, the acting is perfect; especially Meryl who stole the show. Of course, there was no doubt about that.