We watched the movie last Saturday and it kept us awake into the small hours of the morning.
The story line is quite flat, just like bad gossip: a superior nun,who’s also the principal of this Catholic school, suspects a newly appointed priest of inappropriate behaviour towards one of the pupils. She doesn’t have any evidence, only a few incidents brought to her attention by an eager and easily impressed young nun. But she convinces herself and everybody else involved that the priest has wronged the child somehow and makes him leave the school and the parish.
The movie is on the other hand brilliant in exploring the human mind and its intricacies: it makes the viewer aware of how easily a “reality” can be created out of suspicion and self-justification. As, indeed, nothing is explained in the end and the viewer is left battling a sea of endless possibilities and scenarios. Was the reality Sister Aloysius Beauvier constructed veritable or was it all in her head and she blamed an innocent man? Or were there clues one has missed (there is a very confusing conversation between Sister Beauvier and Donald Miller’s mum, the pupil in question) that were there to incriminate Father Flynn? Is there more to the story than what meets the eye?
I have been in similar situations myself, when somebody interpreted the reality from their perspective and then declared my acts as intolerable. The devastation doesn’t come only from the complete and utter destruction of that relationship but also from the doubt that is left hanging over the “accused” person in everybody else’s eyes. People are, I’m sorry to say, much easier influenced by bad reports than by good ones.
What have I learned from my past experiences that Doubt reinforced in my psyche?
1. Petty people are to be treated with respect as they can cause a lot of damage.
2. There is always another side to a story, be wise and listen to it carefully before you pass judgement.
3. Always gather evidence before throwing the stone.
4. If you look to find fault in people you’ll always find some dirt to dig out. A more applaudable approach to life would be to look deep enough in everybody’s soul to find something good to bring to light, despite “obvious” evidence!
5. Never base judgement on feelings, either yours or anybody else’s, no matter how heated the argument is. You are not in the right just because your feelings tell you so!
The movie ends brilliantly with Sister Aloysius doubting her judgement and treatment of Father Flynn. For me, it’s an open end movie, the best I’ve ever seen. Because if Sister Aloysius was right but acted too hastily and didn’t allow herself time to gather evidence then she might have released a child molester into a much bigger community and school…If she was wrong, her actions still deprived a child of the support of a vitally needed father figure and possibly left their mark on Donald Miller’s destiny…
Conclusions? It’s sooo, sooo easy to feel self-righteous and justify an act of meanness. So easy to wrong back when we feel we’ve been wronged. But meanness is not to be taken lightly and made use of easily because it will always affect someone’s life, to a smaller or a greater extent. Use your influence wisely, girls, that’s all I’m saying!