Director: John Patrick Shanley
Year Released: 2008
The impossibly strict Principal of a Catholic School (the incredible Meryl Streep) suspects the parish priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of taking … too much of an interest in a young African American student, with the student's meek 8th grade teacher (Amy Adams) unsettled by the situation. Out of all the Oscar Bait pictures to come out of 2008, this is one of the most impressive - I can't help but be reminded of prime early Hollywood (it could be the muted period décor, it could be the high level of acting ability, it could be the approach to complex and unfortunately timely subject matter). The way Shanley handles the pedohysteria and then adds another layer of complexity to the situation with a key scene involving the boy's mother (Viola Davis) is simply remarkable writing - the ending, too, is chilling in its ambiguity (and the fate of Father Flynn is just as ironic as that of so many other priests in real life). Detractors are correct that it is too spelled out (bulbs flare out ominously, a cat literally catches a mouse, windows keep opening and let leaves and rain in, the camera tilts during certain telling moments) but I feel the picture's strengths compensate.