Streep dominates Doubt in the role of Sister Alouysis. It’s another remarkably precise performance from the great actress, whose character is convinced that her stern temperament and humorlessness are helping to preserve her school—and her church—against a tide of change that she finds unsettling. Hoffman as Father Flynn is equal to Streep’s performance, giving sermons about the sins of gossip and intolerance in the wake of Sister Alouysis’ hostility. Director Shanley, with the inestimable help of the brilliant cinematographer Roger Deakins, has smoothly transitioned his play from stage to screen.

Although set in 1964, Doubt has clear relevance to the issues challenging the Catholic church—and other branches of Christendom—today. How fast should we hold to tradition? Which changes to devotional life are for the best, and which aren’t? How do we deal with corrupt authority figures in the church, and how can we be certain when such corruption actually exists?

“Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty,” Father Flynn tells his parishioners, and yet he also reassures them: “When you are lost, you are not alone.” The power of Doubt is in showing how our sense of moral certainty can be misguided. It’s a story that lingers in the mind long after the final credits have rolled.

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  • Smoking/Drinking:  A boy puts a cigarette in his mouth, but we don’t see him light it; priests smoke and drink; a young boy is said to have had alcohol on his breath and is suspected of drinking altar wine.
  • Language/Profanity:  One or two instances of foul language.
  • Sex/Nudity:  A priest is accused of improper sexual contact with a young boy; a mother suggests that God gave her son a certain sexual preference.
  • Violence:  A mother says that her son’s father beats the boy.