Movie Analysis: The film Doubt


The film Doubt is a 2008 Academy Award winning film including stars Amy Adams, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Viola Davis. Set in 1964, when the culture tides are changing quickly in America, conflict arises in a small Catholic school in the Bronx, New York. Various relationships are challenged, morals and values are tested, and conviction and certainty are swaying in the wind.

The requirements:
• 5 pages (at least)
• 12-point Times New Roman font
• Double spaced
• 1-inch margins on top and bottom
• Name in top left-hand corner

You will find a list of questions below to answer in regard to the film. I am looking for you to answer the questions thoroughly but be careful not to stray away from the question. Stay within the boundaries of each question. I would like for you to organize this paper just as I have below, by numbering your responses (but do not include the questions). If there are numerous questions, or sections of the questions, make it as organized and as easy to read and follow as possible. This is definitely a portion of your grade. Each question will earn up to 10 points. The follow up paragraph (instructions at the bottom of the page) will earn up to 50 points.

1) At the beginning of the course and addressed in Chapter 1 of Wilmot and Hocker it is explained that perception plays a major role in any conflict scenario. We know that our perception is constructed by our experiences, which shape our expectations about “how the world is supposed to be. For these particular characters share with me some insight into what your thoughts are on why these characters are who they are based on the above elements.

Father Flynn
Sister Aloysius
Mrs. Miller (Donald’s mother)
Sister James

2) Assessing these same characters, using your text, suggest what type of conflict style each of these characters seems to exhibit most frequently (Chapter 5, Hocker and Wilmot). Explain in detail using specific examples from the film to express how you came to this conclusion. Within each of these conflicts you will discuss, identify the interests and goals of the parties involved (Chapter 3, Hocker and Wilmot).

3) Chapter 2 of Wilmot and Hocker addresses culture as a factor in creating conflict. Talk about some of the examples of the cultural setting of the movie and how some of the scenarios might play out differently in our current culture. Do stereotypes play a role? Do assumptions play a role? What are some gender differences you see throughout the film?

4) Doubt writer/director John Patrick Shanley recently said, “We are living in an age of extreme advocacy, of confrontation, of judgment and verdict. Discussion has given way to debate. Communication has become a contest of wills. Public talking has become obnoxious and insincere. Why? It’s because deep down under the chatter, we have come to a place where we don’t know anything. But nobody’s willing to say that.”

Elaborate on this statement. What are your thoughts? What examples can you provide where you have seen this manifest?

5) Chapter 3 of Wilmot and Hocker covers positions versus interests. Since you understand the difference, who do you see in this film holding on to positions versus interests? When have you held a position in an argument past the point of comfort? Provide some examples. If you don’t feel you have any examples to share, or your answer is “I haven’t”, then talk about why you think you’ve managed to avoid this scenario up to this point. Is there something you KNOW you would absolutely hold your position on? What is it and why are you so convicted of it?
6) Upon her accusations that Father Flynn has engaged in questionable behavior with Donald, the altar boy, this exchange occurs: Father Brendan Flynn: “You haven’t the slightest proof of anything!”
Sister Aloysius Beauvier: “But I have my certainty! And armed with that, I will go to your last parish, and the one before that if necessary. I’ll find a parent.”
This exchange is one of the most intense of the film. When is certainty without proof enough? What is proof? Why do you think Sister Aloysius is so certain? Is certainty proof, or is certainty ammunition to find proof?
7) Chapter 4 Wilmot and Hocker of addresses the role of POWER in conflict. Discuss the types of power (or lack of power) that each of the main characters seems to hold.
8) Sister Aloysius is convicted to her beliefs and “how the world is supposed to be”, leaving little wiggle room for progress (as some would perceive it). For instance, she did not stand for the girls “dolling up” with barrettes in their hair, or ball point pens, or introducing secular music such as Frosty the Snowman into the Christmas Pageant. At what point do you stand on your own convictions versus “relaxing a little” in order to fit more with the world around you? What is a specific example you can share?
9) Emotions seemed to rule the conflict scenarios in this film, and emotions begin to complicate the communication efforts of the characters. Chapter 6 of Wilmot and Hocker discusses emotion in conflict; specifically reference the section on page 193, principles of emotion in conflict. There are six principles listed here, each example appearing numerous times throughout the film. Provide at least one example of each of the principles that appear throughout the film.
10) At the end of the movie Sister Aloysius says to Sister James “I have doubts. I have such doubts.” The entire film Sister Aloysius acts on her certainty. What do you think she means by this at the end?

**Those are all the questions I have specifically designed for you. I would like for you to now include any personal thoughts, questions, or insight that you have left for discussion. What are your final thoughts? (Please include a 500-word response that doesn’t simply rehash the questions above. 500 words is about a page double spaced.)
Here are some ideas of things to answer:
Do you think Father Flynn is guilty or innocent?
How do you think your experiences affected your perspective of the movie and its characters? I’m curious to see how positions might differ in considering a mother’s perspective, a man’s perspective, an African American’s perspective, a Catholic perspective, a teacher’s perspective, and so on.

This entire assignment should turn out to be about 5 pages in length. Anything shorter than that (by a great margin) will significantly reduce your grade.

Sample Solution