Saw this the other night. Moving. Thought provoking. Based on the play written by John Patrick Shanley, the story revolves around a new priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who wants to add “humanity” to the orthodoxy of the Roman Church. He is portrayed as a friendly, compassionate, all-round good guy and, by contrast to his nemesis, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), a sterling fellow for sure. He enjoys his meals with his brother priests, laughing over stories and sipping good wine. She sits in stone-cold silence eating primly and somberly with her sister sisters, drinking milk. He enjoys being with the students and seems genuinely to care for them. She enjoys rapping them on the back of the head and making them tremble with her threats. He thinks ‘secular” music at the annual Christmas pageant would be just fine. She thinks “Frosty the Snowman” is Satanic (No, really. She does — and, at that point, she almost won me over!). He doesn’t like what the Roman Church has become and wants to change it. She’s not only concerned but offended that he would even begin to think anything amiss.
The movie begins with a homily by Father Flynn on the benefits of “doubt.” Sister Aloysius immediately begins to doubt the integrity of any man who thinks that doubt can be beneficial. Things spiral downwards from there and in the end, what seemed so clear in the beginning is no longer quite so certain: Sister Aloysius is filled with doubts. Father Flynn has moved on rather than allow the doubts about him to be confirmed or discredited. So, all we are left with is . . . . .
I’m no good at analyzing movies, so I probably missed the point completely, but one thing I did think this film demonstrated (in a very painful way) was the destructiveness of suspicion. Spurgeon (I think) once said that he’d rather be deceived a thousand times than to live a life of suspicion. Amen. Nothing is more soul-killing . . .
and there’s no doubt about that.