The script and acting is amazing, I felt no difficulty in immersing myself in the reality of the school. I was taught in an Irish convent school in 70s, where the boys and girls were seperately educated, so the priests had very little contact with girls the way things were organised in our town.
There is such subtlety in how Fr Flynn interacts with the boys. He is positive and encouraging, warm and snarky. Yet the boys all flinch when he thrusts his long fingernails at them. Well all except Donald Miller, the boy under observation. Fr Flynn wants to innovate, Frosty the snowman, have a camping trip. Warning bells!!! Not Frosty, but the camping trip, an ideal occasion of total access to the boys.
Donald's mum hoped that the priest was kind to her son, regardless of his motivation. That sounded cold, until she said his life was in danger if he had to return to his last school or his father thought his son's "personality" had been discovered. The cruelty in that boy's life was barely sketched, but that was a theme that played whenever Sr Aloysius had dealings with children. The children were either a problem that needed correction and they should shut up. The other teachers and nuns were far warmer.
Cue Fr Flynn cuddling Donald in the corridor... he must have felt so secure to do that, either because he was innocent, or because he was in brazenly open and despite confessing to terrible sin "would never feel true regret" in Sr Aloysius' damning phrase.
I am puzzled about why Sr James hid the most telling evidence (the undershirt returned by the priest direct into Donald's locker) - was it inexperience, that she could not infer how the shirt was in his possession? Perhaps had Sr Aloysius been cool on first hearing her fears, Sr James would have had to list all her observations, among them the shirt. When Sr Aloysius immediately jumps to conclusions without any facts, that is very worrying to Sr James who backs off.
But of course Sr Aloysius was not trying to protect a young boy; she is censorious, delighted that she has the means to get rid of Fr Flynn. She never expresses fears that he will go on to abuse other boys when he has moved on. Her Doubt, is not that she was wrong about Fr Flynn, and frankly I am with her instincts there; it may be that she feels guilt that she allowed herself the pleasure of pursuit. Recall the severity of their dinner - the gristle served as a lesson in abjecting oneself. She is not accustomed to obeying others, perhaps she must discipline herself? Where is the Mother Superior of her order? It is she who one would expect her to consult. If she was Mother, she would have been addressed as such.
I knew nuns like Sr Aloysius. Dare to cross them and they are in pursuit of you throughout your career in the school. Yet they love their community, they do good works, they run the school needing only a glance to keep order. No beatings in Sr Aloysius' school did you notice! The experience of waiting outside her office was enough to keep order. Vinegar can be overused though.
A wonderful film that will keep showing new aspects on repeated viewings.
I loved this film for its honesty, the unsentimental gaze on every one of the characters.