The film was set at a time in the Church when I was not yet born, and so I might not be able to accurately comment on the characters, their reactions, their emotions, and their actions. The theme, however, is universal and still very much applicable to the Catholic Church as I know it.
Most of you who read this blog know that I don't exactly write movie reviews; instead I write movie reflections.
I have been a Meryl Streep fan since childhood, and I need not add to the chorus of praises for her outstanding performance in this film. She set the pace, the tone, and the outcome of this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams held their own against her restless, doubtful character. Philip as the very human priest Fr. Flynn was so convincing that I could relate more to his feelings, rather than to Meryl's character, Sr. Aloysius. Amy Adams was perfect as the innocent, compassionate younger nun, that it reminded me of her character from the movie "Enchanted", which I also liked.
The theme that struck me while watching, and even hours after, was not Doubt, but Love. In particular, I was looking for it from Sr. Aloysius. She had been so caught up in her desire to pursue truth and to "serve God", that she had turned Machiavellian. She firmly believed that she could step away from God in order to do God's work. I could not live with that. I disagreed with that philosophy the more I thought about it. I was shaking my head during many of her unbelievably complicated, yet subtle, scenes.
Just last Thursday, a couple of days before I watched the film, we had Bible Study in our office (yes, I am blessed to be in a workplace where the bosses support our spiritual growth) and the topic was the Fruit of the Spirit. We studied three Scripture passages on Love: 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 14, and Colossians 3. We wrote down what encompassed love and we each identified our strengths and weaknesses in loving.
A friend texted me that he loved Sr. Aloysius' humanity in the end of the movie. For me, it came too late, for somebody else had paid the price for her lack of compassion, gentleness, patience, obedience, and kindness.
I was struck by the stark difference between the dinner table of the sisters - hardly any conversation, the only sound coming from the scraping of the spoons against the plates - and that of the priests - where there was laughter, some irreverent conversation, wine, and genuine interest in one another. Sr. Aloysius must have had a loving side hidden deep inside her, but I wished she had revealed it sooner. But then again, the movie would not be about Doubt, but Compassion.
The various themes of the film were as overwhelming for me as "The Secret Life of Bees", a book I had wanted to write a reflection on even before the film was shown. Racism, to which I had never been exposed to, played a major part in how the characters were developed and dealt with. I would not venture to dwell on this much, except to say that any form of exclusion, any assertion of superiority, or any form of oppression, seems to me to run counter to the very nature of agape love, to which we are all called.
It is true, however, that Doubt binds us, and that is where the film succeeds in transcending time and exposing the hearts (and minds) of men. The very servants of God could very well be the ones experiencing crisis of faith. Zeal for His love could possibly blind a person towards the need to accept the weaknesses of others. I asked with the priest's character, directed toSr. Aloysius, "Have you ever done anything wrong?" Her response was chilling.
Sr. Aloysius did not approve of sugar. Fr. Flynn loved four cubes in his tea. He also smoked, drank, and joked around with the students. Sr. Aloysius liked to live in the past, and to instill old-school discipline to the students. It was easy to love Fr. Flynn and to hate Sr. Aloysius. He was the victim and she the judge, jury, and executioner.
What I took with me after watching this film was to ask myself how Jesus lived, and how as His disciple, servant, and friend, I was supposed to handle life and all its complications. I did not want to become a modern-day Pharisee and to add to the law what God had not commanded. I did not want to give Christianity a bad name by being a sad, bitter person.
I wish for the winds of change to come again and blow the Holy Spirit's breath into the dark, doubting souls that permeate this earth. I do not think it is Doubt that should bind us, but Faith - in the unseen, but certain, Love of our Father, revealed through His Son, and dwelling in us through His Holy Spirit.
Yes, what the world needs now is love. I believe this without a doubt.