Monday, February 23, 2009
'Doubt' is a truly riveting movie about a Catholic school in a working class section of New York in 1964. It pairs two of the best actors of the age, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman plays a priest in the school and Streep is Sister Aloysius, a mother superior to the nuns who teach in the school.
The school gets it first black kid. Sister Aloysius soon accuses the priest of molesting the boy. The story develops as the evidence evolves and the certainty grows.
The story and the dialogue are nuanced and layered. The writing is splendid and the acting superb. All four of the principal actors were nominated for academy awards. The screenplay was nominated as well. The cinematography was excellent too, if on occasion a bit much.
The emotional pitch as the movie progresses was so strong that I found myself tensing and having trouble calming myself with assurances that it was just a movie.
The only failing of the movie is a big one. I simply did not believe the last scene that supposedly morally resolves the conflict. It just isn't believable. The character Streep draws for Sister Aloysius is just too harsh, unrelenting, and un-self-critical for the ending to work.
The story reinforced my long-standing resolve never to be around children. Friends from middle schools have told me that it is uniform practice never to be alone with a child for fear of accusation. And that is when they have the whole weight of an institution on their side.
For an elderly single man, well-known to be eccentric, any suggestion would bring instant conviction by any jury just for the profile. Even if I proved by photos, witnesses, and passport stamps that I was in Canada at the time, I would be permanently tainted in the eyes of everyone I know.
It is not an exaggeration that the consequences to my life would be worse than if I committed armed robbery. Which is too bad. I like kids and have often been told that I would be a good teacher. But the risk of encountering an unstable child or even a persistent liar is not a risk worth taking.