A shred of doubt

10
Mar
2009

It seems to be movie week with Stephen. Today Josh and I finally went to go see Doubt. The acting, especially by Hoffman and Streep, was truly wonderful. I was surprised (a little) at the end how Josh and I reached different conclusions about the guilt of the main character, Father Flynn. I said not guilty (although I could easily see how people could see him as guilty) and Josh said guilty (with a seemingly greater degree of certainty than I). I think the film is a Rorschach for many things in each of us, and there is of course no “right” answer and the film is intended to be ambiguous.

For me, this film would have been completely different (possibly not doable in this context ie, Catholic, 1964) without the gay subtext. It is precisely this subtext which makes it possible to believe in the innocence of Father Flynn. One of the reasons Josh said he felt convinced that he was guilty was because when threatened by Sister Aloysius with digging through his past, he acceded to her demand that he leave the parish. For me, it was possible that sure, there were things about his life he didn’t want exposed (gay things) and (this being a very unacceptable thing in 1964) decided to leave rather than face condemnation for status rather than actions.

In addition, this film is excellent for making us question the nature of guilt and innocence, and our individual and collective need for “justice” to be served.  It made me think about the kind of people who support the death penalty. No matter the evidence they are presented with, they hold to their irrational need to “get those baddies” even if it means innocent people will be killed along the way. They seem to have (like Streep’s Character in the movie) an emotional need for “justice” which outweighs “beyond a reasonable doubt”.