Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the strict principal of the attached school, has some sort of rivalry with the Father and she puts question mark on the sermon given by the father regarding ‘doubt’. She is quite strict in her nature and is very stuck to certain beliefs.
With the rivalry between these two authorities, John Patrick Shanley, Director of the movie has tried to check the importance of two different values. His side is quite clear, even then he has succeeded to force viewers, stuck to the chairs throughout the movie.
Contradiction in the beliefs between these two personalities, have been shown in the movie through very simple incidents and examples, which interests the people. Vide, whether the Principal forces students to cut their nails, the Father says, if you think it is looking better, so keep it clean. To support his statement, he also shows his nails to students. The Principal feels bad for writing with ball pen, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) loves using ball pen for writing.
With very open nature, Father loves to take more sugar in his tea, which is awkwardness in the eye of the Principal.
These are the symbolic values, which Shanley has used to indicate something bigger. Later, only one black student in entire school Donald Miller, he is also an altar boy in the movie, got closeness with the Father. It might be empathy, as Father also wants to keep himself confident in surrounding white society.
Sister James (Amy Adams), a young and naïve teacher, is quite innocent in her gestures. It is the matter of the attraction throughout the movie. Once she receives a call of the Father during the class, asking for the alter boy. When the boy returned after the meeting, she guessed some aberration in his behaviour. Later she notices the Father hiding something in almirah. Turning suspicious over the behaviour of the Father, she checks the hideouts and finds that there is smell of wine spreading from the cloths of the alter boy. Following the incident, she details the principle about suspicious behaviour of the Father.
The whole incident has brought golden opportunity for the Principal and she starts creating problem for him. She uses each and everything she could, to compel the father for the resignation from the church. In the process of conflict, the father succumbs to the conspiracy, especially, to save the student from any aversive consequences of his proximity.
John Patrick Shanley
John Patrick Shanley (screenplay), John Patrick Shanley (play)
Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams