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The Essential Guide to Bristol
12 February 2009
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Doubt (15)

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The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner06/02/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Impressively directed drama with a gripping script and a pair of powerhouse performances from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, though the ending may prove frustrating for some.

What's it all about?
Adapted by director John Patrick Shanley, from his own play, Doubt is set in the Bronx in 1964 and stars Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, who runs the St Nicholas Catholic School with an iron fist. When wide-eyed innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) shares her suspicions that the school's charismatic priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is paying too much attention to the school's first black student (Joseph Foster II as Donald Miller), Sister Aloysius begins a crusade to unearth the truth and, if necessary, force Father Flynn to resign.

The Good
Shanley's superbly written script exerts a powerful grip that has you scouring every word and gesture for evidence that will convict or acquit Father Flynn, but - and it's probably worth saying this up front - the film's resolution ultimately requires the audience to make up their own minds, which might prove frustrating to anyone who didn't pay sufficient attention to the title on the way in.

With that in mind, the performances are unquestionably the main reason to see the film: Streep is on typically brilliant form as Sister Aloysius, revealing telling glimpses of humour and humanity under her stern demeanour, while Hoffman gives as good as he gets as the beleaguered priest. It's a testament to the quality of both the script and Hoffman's performance that the film includes two full-length sermons and that both are genuinely riveting.

The Great
There's also a terrific, deservedly Oscar-nominated supporting turn from Viola Davis, who has a heartbreaking scene as Donald's mother, who doesn't react quite the way Sister Aloysius is expecting when confronted with her suspicions. In addition, Amy Adams is sweet and occasionally funny as Sister James, though her character sadly disappears about halfway through.

Worth seeing?
Doubt is a gripping, thought-provoking and ultimately moving drama that's worth seeing for Streep and Hoffman's performances alone. Highly recommended.

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