Starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.Directed by John Patrick Shanley.In cinemas from February 6.

Starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Directed by John Patrick Shanley. In cinemas from February 6.


I normally like to write, for some context of my thoughts before the movie, a decent round-up of who's in the movie, who directs it and my thoughts on them. An overview of my bias, if you like.

But this is the first review since starting this foray into cinema reviews where I am, honestly, pretty neutral about everything involved. I've peered at the tube poster whilst walking to work, and have concluded that Phillip Seymour Hoffman looks really annoying in it - but, at the same time, he was really good in the recent political drama Charlie Wilson's War and fantastic in the classic 1999 movie Magnolia.

I'm 100 per cent neutral to Meryl Streep. I've probably seen her in plenty of flicks but I can't remember anything particularly standout. The director John Patrick Shanley has directed one other movie, the 1990 Tom Hanks vehicle Joe Versus The Volcano (no, I don't remember it either).

The vibe I've got from the press is that it's an adaptation of a stage drama about a priest suspected of abusing a student. Just the ticket for a relaxing evening after work.

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That was an interesting one; roughly what I expected, but also a very solid piece of work.

It is indeed about a tough Christian school in the late 60s, and basically tells the difficult battle between two polar opposites - traditional school principal Sister Aloysius (Streep) who believes in strict rules and a lack of anything secular, and modernist Father Flynn (Hoffman) who tries to bring church and family closer, by being friendlier and embrace the changing times.

The friction begins when a teacher at the school, Sister James (the wonderfully delicate Amy Adams), finds flaky evidence that Father Flynn had given alcohol to a student for particularly un-Christian reasons. Sister Aloysius seizes on this and takes it on herself to either find damning proof or to rid the priest from the school and church. It sounds like pretty heavy stuff, but ultimately it is a battle of wills - which treats the audience to some cracking and biting stand-offs between the two warring parties.

The acting is top notch from the leads, although Meryl Streep's characters walks a very fine line between stern and strong to just very annoying. She just about pulls it off though. Some of the scenes are long stretches of gorgeously given dialogue, for some a little hard work but I was really impressed. It's wonderfully shot too and, although the entire movie is based in one establishment, the setting doesn't become too claustrophobic. It's the right length too and is interesting throughout - the title of the movie works because I was constantly doubting the characters actions and reasoning, wondering who to pledge my support in.

The only negativity I can find is that it isn't particularly a movie that impresses any more in a cinema than just settling down watching it at home - in fact, seeing it with a glass of wine and the chance to pause at points and discuss which character's side your on at certain points could enhance the viewing. I have no doubt about one thing though - the movie impresses and definitely surpassed by flailing anticipation.