x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Doubt

From a sun-kissed, dungaree-wearing hippie in Mama Mia! to a pale, pinched nun in a matter of months - it's all in a year's work for Meryl Streep.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in Doubt.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in Doubt.

From a sun-kissed, dungaree-wearing hippie in Mama Mia! to a pale, pinched nun in a matter of months - it's all in a year's work for Meryl Streep. Her turn as the reactionary Sister Aloysius in the big screen adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play Doubt was seen by many as a blatant Oscar bid (she was nominated for best actress). As the title suggests, the film revolves around doubt - although it could equally have been called Proof, since that is what both Streep and the audience crucially lack throughout the film. It is the 1960s and winds of change are sweeping through society. St Nicholas Church School in the Bronx has just accepted its first black pupil. And Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the parish's liberal priest, sets about making changes to the old order. But Sister Aloysius has other ideas, and, armed with nothing other than her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius sets about taking Flynn down. A series of visual cues - a smile here, a gesture there - is all that Aloysius and the audience have on which to base their decision about his character. Not a gripping premise, perhaps, but it is engaging thanks to some great performances. Streep is at her flinty, unhinged best, and Hoffman is simultaneously congenial and creepy. Of course, whether Flynn is at fault is beside the point: the interest lies in how these people assimilate suspicion, guilt and conviction - and how our own moral compass swings, regardless of the truth.

* Katie Boucher