Film “Doubt” is Strong on Theme

Clapboard & cinema reelOscar season is upon us now–a good time to remember past nominees which may have gone largely unnoticed but which are well worth a look. Doubt received many acting and writing nominations at the 2009 Oscars and some wins at other awards. Today I welcome guest blogger Taylor Davis, who reviews this powerful film.

John Patrick Shanley’s 2008 film Doubt tells the story of a parish in peril as a pastor is accused of child molestation, and depicts the gospel principle that “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:2).

Although the story is openly religious, taking place in a Catholic church and school and including several scenes of Father Flynn preaching sermons, this message is conveyed mostly in the familiar style rather than the abundant. The film shows a man facing the consequences of his sins in a way to which we may relate… or will relate someday.

Father Flynn is obviously shaken by the accusations against him. Whether or not he actually committed the crime is never revealed, though it is implied that he has a dark past, as he was thrown out of three other parishes in the past five years. His angry temperament when confronted with these accusations is a manifestation that, whether or not he did it, the subject is very personal to him. He hates its mere mention. The first time he is confronted by Sisters James and Aloysius, he does what any sinner might do: he retaliates angrily and changes the subject, asserting that he is unsatisfied with how the situation was handled. In this way he redirects all negativity away from him and at his accusers.

When the wicked are suspected of a sin, they will often do anything they can to hide it from the world and keep their reputation in good standing. In this way they act cowardly, and ignore the eternal and inevitable consequences of their actions. They will plug their ears and scream when someone tries to warn them of what will happen to them if they do not change, because the wicked take the truth to be hard. This is the theme of Doubt.

Doubt stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis.

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