Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis are the four linchpins of the film version of "Doubt" by the gifted author John Patrick Shanley (his script for the movie "Moonstruck" is one of my favorites).
I have seen the stage version in productions both by Vermont Stage Company and by the Weston Playhouse, but neither production made the final scene an event that flowed from and capped off the rest of the play-in fact, they did not supply a catharsis when one was drastically needed. Not so as played by Streep and Adams; the catharsis hits the audience with all the force and velocity of a speeding train. I felt that I had been blindsided by the author and the actors. What a catharsis!
The portrayals of the characters by these four players are peerless, but there is a fifth actor, the camera, that acts like a Greek chorus, commenting albeit silently on the action; the visual circumstances created in silence by camera angles especially when Streep is walking in the school hallway (the camera sees her from a skewed point of view by glimpses of the priest in his rounds of the church and the school either at a distance where overhearing what is said is not possible) or where a meeting is being held behind a glass-paned door where only sight is possible. The silent commentaries together with juxtapositions of music and speech that comment on the circumstances of the play/film make a strong presence in the film.
The other thing that well lined by Shanley is the subservience of women in religion to the men in religion, which was extremely patriarchal and condescending; mark the difference between meals being consumed by the nuns versus the dinner being enjoyed by the three priests: the nuns' food perpetually the same and almost devoid of meat; the priests' food being a very Rabelaisian or Renaissance feast, replete with wine and laughter and joke telling as well as rich foods with plenty of meat. All of this being shown to us without lots of arrows and whistles and bells to direct our attention, but attention must be paid