Synopsis: At a Catholic school in the 1960s, a nun becomes suspicious of a Priest’s activities with a new boy at the school from the special attention he gives to him. Her determination to prove his wrongdoing begets a power play between the two as he denies the charges and proof is impossible to come by.
Release Date: December 12, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Mystery
The subject matter may not be for everyone but this is a very well done film. It has drama and suspense and mystery all rolled up into one. The film is filled with moments that you may not soon forget and revelations that cause you to gasp.
Throughout the entire film the writing is taut and to the point. It does not deter from the story at hand or dive deeper into things than necessary. It is strong and dynamic, while having moments of humor hidden in between such strong circumstances and occurrences. Above all else, it clearly gives you the difference between the characters. Their worlds, what they believe in, and how they think things should exist. As the characters change the dialogue serves to portray their changes, and build on their distinctive arcs.
The true stand out performance in the film is by Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier. The tough as nails, high on morality, and seeping with disdain persona she evokes is without fault. Her presence on screen is dynamic and all encompassing. The way she delivers her lines is irreproachable but the true brilliance of the performance comes from her eyes. She need not say a word for all her feelings and emotions are constantly being expelled through the way she looks at those around her and engages them with a careful glance or succinct stare.
Then we have Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller. She may only appear on screen for a brief amount of time but she makes up for it with her first-rate performance. As the mother of a boy who may or may not have been abused by his Priest she does not break down in melodramatic flair. No, she exudes a level of restraint and ignorance for the situation that both breaks your heart and infuriates you to the point of disgust for her character. It such a level of honest truth and circumstance that she portrays that it appears so easy and simple for her, while her tears show the vulnerability inside she is fighting from unleashing.
As for the other two main characters of the film, Father Brendan Flynn (Hoffman) and Sister James (Adams), they to give performances that are absolutely skillful. Adams plays the naive Sister who must come to terms with the breakdown of her simple world with a delicate grace. When her agreeable temperament is broken Adams carefully regains her composure with a simple breath and continues.
This film is beautifully shot and the camera angles employed reflect the action and storyline brilliantly. From the wide interior shots of the church, the community, and the ambience of life in this part of town you are placed into the story immediately. Then there is the use of the God’s eye view camera angle in the church. It may be a bit obvious as to why the shot is used but the effect is not lost on the moment. Looking down from above upon the Priest who is to be judged in this place of good, where evil is to be banished and repented for, is moving and absolutely dynamic to watch.
As the story progresses and the battle begins, so to speak, canted angles are employed perfectly in close-ups when ‘proof’ or ‘guilt’ are discussed. By using this angle the camera reflects the mindset of a character and the topic of interest. There is no straight answer when it comes to what is being asked to be proven, or verified, and the minds of the characters are not clear and distinct.
The intensity of this film would not be achieved if not for the absolutely remarkable chemistry between Streep and Hoffman. When they are one-on-one with each other it is electrifying and invigorating. Not for one moment do you want to take your eyes away from the screen as these two act out their undeniable power struggle and the tensions between them. When they are together on screen the drama radiates, both playing off each other brilliantly.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): John Patrick Shanley
- Producer(s): John Patrick ShanleyMeryl Streep (Sister Aloysius Beauvier)
- Screenwriter(s): Philip Seymour Hoffman (Father Brendan Flynn)Amy Adams (Sister James)Viola Davis (Mrs. Miller)
- Story: Alice Drummond (Sister Veronica)
- Cast: Joseph Foster II (Donald Miller) Dylan TichenorRoger DeakinsDavid Gropman
- Editor(s): Ann Roth
- Cinematographer: Howard Shore
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA