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!
I saw the movie few months ago myself. To this day I think , that father Flynn was guilty, why else would he leave? But then again I do not know, may be I am very easily influenced. I also remember how grateful the mother of the boy was…it is really a mystery.There are always 2 sides of any story.
Yes, Iva, That was our conclusion as well; there there are always two sides to a story. We discussed it an length with Alex. He said Father Flynn was clever to leave because if he had decided to make the whole thing public it would have ruined his reputation. But if he was indeed guilty and a pedophile the nun made it possible for him to him to harm even more children…very tricky scenario, indeed.xx
I am guilty of self-righteousness thousand times over! In my work as a teacher, I often (mis)judge my students. It is so easy to take everything at face value and we need to keep reminding ourselves to look, dig deeper.
Marvelous post 🙂
Thank you,Misz! I’m a teacher too so I know exactly what you mean. It’s easily done, misjudging as it requires no mental effort, almost. Doing the opposite is a tad bit harder, isn’t’ it ;-)?
Thanks Mike L,When I saw and reviewed Doubt, lsyemf and my friend interpreted it as a : that is, it deliberately leaves the film ambiguous enough so that each viewer can impose his/her own viewpoint on the film. While I think that most (if not all) art functions this way, Doubt seems to deliberately set itself up in a Rorschachian style.As such, the film is about telling us more about ourselves, then conveying any particular message or pressing any agenda/perspective (e.g., “doubt is a good thing and helps our faith,” or “certainty is better than doubt,” or “we should be open to homosexuals,” etc.).So, this film, I think, exposes your interest is epistemology. I hadn’t thought of it as a film that explores epistemology, but one can most certainly find epistemological issues at play: how do we know whether the priest is guilty or whether Sister Aloysius is just paranoid.