Wednesday 30 December 2009


I just finished watching the film, Doubt. What a good film it was. It lays out just how the system worked. The complexities of the boy's relationship at home were well handled and bringing up an issue that is seldom talked about - the fact that young boys who are gay are particularly vulnerable to the abuses of predators simply because they already feel like they don't belong.

The performances were nuanced. The writing was superb.

Now I am wondering how many people think that the nun had doubts about her accusation, when she says that she has doubts at the end. It is clear that the title is meant to have a dual meaning. I know that one of my students told me about the film and how the guilt of the priest wasn't clear at the end and the nun had doubts about his guilt. Guess what I will be discussing in class at some point in the winter term?

I will watch the film again with the commentary by the director. I will also go and look at the reviews of the film and some of what other people have written about it. Maybe everyone got it - that the nun's doubts had to do with her faith, not the priest's guilt.

Stay tuned

Addendum 1 (4:40pm): I have been thinking about the film and thinking that probably the writer does want us to think that the nun has doubts about everything including the priest's guilt. Maybe Philip Seymour Hoffman did such a good job and is so familiar that I can't imagine who would doubt that he was grooming the boy. In fact, his performance was downright creepily accurate. However, if she does have doubts about the priest's guilt - which Meryl Streep's performance at that point doesn't seem to indicate, then does that speak to the power of the belief system - not just the institution but the belief system. I would love to see the next step in the nun's journey through doubt - could be quite interesting.

Addendum 2 (5:31): When I first looked at who the film was written and directed by, John Patrick Shanley, I wondered offhandedly whether or not he could be a relative of Paul Shanley, one of the figures in the Boston "problem" for years. I didn't bother checking it out and still haven't. However, I think that I will. The more I think about the film, the more I see the Paul Shanley excuses, although quite skillfully understated. Paul Shanley always said that he was being persecuted because he was openly gay - notwithstanding his endorsement of, and membership in (I stand to be corrected here because it is a few years since doing research on that area), NAMBLA (John Stewart's favourite target - look it up if you don't know what the acronym stands for, I just can't write it out). He argued that all he was doing was helping the poor underprivileged children, that the church needed to be modernized, etc. No wonder I am reminded of Paul Shanley when thinking about the film. Shanley's case is interesting in that, even David France, author of Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in the Age of Scandal, ends up sitting on the fence about Shanley (this could have been for legal reasons, we will never know). Even if Shanley didn't sexual assault young boys, his life is so unsavoury, that one still has to wonder why he remained a priest and protected for so long. Well, not really - that was a rhetorical point, only. We shall see.

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