Movie Review: “Doubt”

February 16, 2009

Raimund shares with us after watching “Doubt” with Maria … share your thoughts and your own reviews in Comments.

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A trusted friend recommended that I watch the movie “Doubt,” so Maria and I went to see the movie. 

“Doubt” is a powerful movie which presents us with the kind of problem we face in the real world.  Most movies follow the standard Disney-movie prescription of a world of good and evil where the good always wins and in the end, everybody lives happily ever after.  There is a reason why we like to watch those kinds of movies, but it can be refreshing to occasionally encounter a movie like “Doubt” where we won’t simply walk out with the ‘fairy tale, live happily ever after’ frame of mind.

The movie raises the issue of having to choose between two evils.  To put the issue into perspective and to show that the issue has much more than only abstract, philosophical relevance, I would like to reference the story of Rahab in Joshua 2.  In order to protect the two Israelite spies, Rahab lies to the city officials.  She commits a sin which is singled out by God as particularly detestable (Proverbs 6:17) and in the process an entire city is destroyed.  Yet, by compromising her moral integrity, Rahab becomes part of a greater good in the larger scheme of God’s plan of redemption.

In the movie, Sister Aloysius, the school principal, is in a similar situation.  She lies and compromises her personal moral commitment in order to be more certain about a Priest’s sin and to fulfill her responsibility of doing what is best for the school and its students.  But as a consequence, she has to cope with the moral conflict this causes inside of her, and in the end, she cannot simply walk away from the issue unmarred by the reality of this difficult situation.  Sister James, on the other hand, comes to the issue with a still-innocent frame of mind.  She is just getting started in adult life and to the end, hopes for a more simplistic ending to the story.

The easy way out for us would be to distance ourselves from the issue and dismiss it as something which only concerns those personally involved in the Roman Catholic sexual child abuse scandal.  I think that inside of us there is always the part where we would rather remain like Sister James all our lives and hope for simplistic solutions to life’s problems.  But what if we were put into a similar situation?  Assuming that you have seen the movie, do you think Sister Aloysius’ use of a lie was justified or should she have kept her personal moral commitment intact?

If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend you to watch it.  The issue I describe above is presented in an extremely well-acted way I have seen only in a few other movies.

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