Issues of Few Answers But Lots of Laughs

CLASSIFICATION  MG Mature Guidance

RATING  Three of 5 Stars

Distributed by RVQ Production (released in the Philippines on 25 December 2009; in the United States on 14 February 2010)

94 minutes

 

The Film

Nobody, Nobody But … Juan is a Filipino slapstick comedy film that took its title from a refrain line of the 2009-popular Wonder Girls-song “Nobody” and promotes a popular noon-time TV show “Wowowee.” It was partly shot in Chicago. Bibeth Orteza wrote the script. Eric Quizon directed.

 

The Preview

 

 

The Story

The film opens in a late-1944 standup comedy “Juan and Tu Show” in Manila where young comedians Juan (Jeffrey Quizon) and Tu (Vandolph Quizon) stand behind bars wondering how to get out of jail as a guard passes by. In the audience are Japanese officers sitting in the front row as other Filipinos laug their belly out at the back. Not long later the crows breaks up in panic as the Japanese officer annunces that the enemies has arrived. And everyone scampered for cover.

Back in the present, Juan de la Cruz (Dolphy Quizon) wakes up on his bed in a nursing home for the aged run by his son Waldo (Eric Quizon) and daughter-in-law Jane (G Toengi). He proceeds to the cafeteria to see his friend (Eugene Domingo) who suffers form narcolepsy, making him sleep anywhere even while standing up or sitting down and talking to Juan.

Meanwhile, Tu (Eddie Garcia) and friend Lolay (Pokwang) run a swindling operation that targets visiting tourists. They hit the restaurant Komeya Panceteria, and mange to sell Wowowee tickets, which later turn out to be fakes.

Back in the home, Waldo catches the elderly watching Wowowee, a popular Phippine noon-time show, on television, and orders the caregivers to turn off the TV as the show is banned in the home. Juan drops his face in disappointment on the policy, and ends up throwing hard reminders on Waldo for his sheepish behavior before his wife.

Juan recalls a show during the Japanese occupation, which ended up having the Japanese  soldiers throwing cake icing at each other for fun. He also witnessed his falling out with girlfriend Aida (Heart Evangelista), and Lolay’s seductive taunts at him.

Meanwhile, Juan leads the residents and caretakes in devising a plan to watch the show by setting a booby trap on Waldo who tends the kitchen. As a result, Jane wants Juan out of the home. The residents protest loudly at the cafeteria against the Wowowee ban, shouting “Wowowee… No eating.”

One time while Waldo and Jane are entertaining prospective investors, Juan leads a topless parade of the residents inside the home, as the caregivers applauding all the way, and messing up with the prospects of the home getting an investor. In the confusion, the angry Jane falls off the stairway and breaks her legs. On the hospital bed, she tells Waldo she wants a divorce.

A road violation brings Waldo and Juan to the county precinct where Juan sees Lolay, guesting in Wowowee. She calls on Juan in America who may be watching her in the show. Juan also sees Tu in the sides, and realizes how much he misses his old friend.

Meanwhile the marriage between Waldo and Jane deteriorates. Waldo has Juan stay in a Filipino firend to keep him away from Jane. eventually, Juan leaves the home without a word for Waldo.

In the Philippines, Juan took a taxi to watch the Wowowee Show in person. Meanwhile Tu and Lolay pass by Juan in the entrance line, looking for someone to victimize. Lolay spots Juan. Tu recognizes Juan and recalls another standup act they had during the occupation. Unluckily the foreigner they victimized recognizes Tu, and calls on the security guard for help. Tu snatches Juan from the line, and make a run to escape. While hiding from the security guard, Juan recognizes Tu.

Tu manages to slip out. Juan, caught up, finds his way into the very stage of the very stage of the show. The residents and caregivers at the home in Chicago watches him with fun. That gives him time to greet Waldo and Jane on the air. From the bleachers, Lolay joins Juan and Willy onstage. Juan recalls Lolay in their stage performance during the occupation, and remembers Aida.

A hasty exit as the pursuit continues brought Juan, Tu, and Lolay to Aida, now living as the wife of Tu. Aida, suffering from fading mind, met Juan, and off-handly admitted to her only daughter Juana that her true father is Juan. Juan stays with Aida.

Meanwhile, in the nursing home back in Chicago, the life of the elderly improves with Wowowee no longer banned and as Waldo and Jane make up.

The film closes as Willy starts the noontime show with a talk as Juan sits beside Aida watching it, with her mind slowly fading and only the keeps her spirit alive.

During the post credit, Juan and Aida can be seen at the Wowowee bleachers laughing and dancing with the audience as Waldo and Jane and the residents in the Chicago home dance in the tune of the show’s favorite dancing song.

 

The Review 

Nobody, Nobody But… Juan is a comedian-studded film, maybe the first time in Philippine movie history. Where a usual Filipino comedy film involves two to four comedians, this movie has a repertoire of around seven movie and television personalities who specialize in standup comedy in supporting roles to the trio of Dolphy, Eddie Garcia, and Pokwang. While Garcia is not a full-time comedy actor, his flexibility in handling myriads of roles in drama, action, and comedy makes him a natural comedian in the use of timing.

The timeline of the film however was very long for a less-than-two-hours movie making it difficult to give the characters much depth. It also left out certain details that can make the movie realistic. For example, the extras in this film apparently got left out without enough attention. The female traffic police cannot seem to connect with Juan at the road incident. The precinct officer has been left out without even a short dialogue to interact with Juan when the character should.

Another shortcoming of the film was its inability to do away with dirty skits, which tend to demean the females in the name of comedy. The clumsy flip of Lolay that led her to fall inguinal side on Juan’s face and ending upside down, skirt opened, with Tu holding her two legs spred open. The sexy househelp who intentionally bump his prominent boobs at the face of Juan.  

The general plot however is good, and with the help of professional comedy actors the film provides a well-timed fun.

One distinct accomplishment of this movie was the efficiency of its use of plots that covers a lot of things–history (Japanese occupation, standup comedy in the Philippines, fate of retired stage performers), social issues (taxi metering scam, illegal stay in the United States, and multi-partner parenthood), and family issues (taking care of ageing parents, parenting children of different mothers, and out-of-wedlock children). Most of these commentaries though proposed no answer but largely used as a tool for comedy.

Fate of the entertainers. In a conversation inside a restaurant, Tu tells Lolay the sorry state of old entertainers like them who got forced to scam others because of their dire financial circumstance. Its lack of answer provides a silent comment of the tragedy.

Caring for the old. The disparity between the needs of the ageing residents and the nursing home’s policy, and how the same exists between Waldo and his father Juan, brings up again an family issue without proposing a solution. It did appear to say that old people may need to learn to take care of themselves while they still can when their youngs fail to do so. Another tragedy indeed.

Employment of illegal Filipino aliens. Two Filipinos, employed in the Chicago home, without legal papers where being sought by the police. While the incident provides an opportunity to make a comedic situation reminiscent of Police Academy, the scenes to be more a comment of the issue of unregistered Filipino in the United States than merely a comedy tool. The film opined that fellow Filipinos can be torn between the need to protect their countrymen there while doing their job as legitimate workers.

Taxi meter scam. The cheating taxi meter provides a comedic commentary on the problems involving manipulation of certain taxi operators in order to cheat their customers of their fare money. The bumping nudge to the meter makes a funny situation to watch. The ultimate joke however was when the table turned against the driver when he overdid it, causing the meter to read zero instead of a much higher figure. Again the film proposed no solution other than the funny one.

 

The Verdict

Nobody, Nobody But… Juan is a well-timed hilarious film about realities in Filipino lives today. Except for the unfortunate dirty scenes in the film that are unnecessarily inappropriate for less mature children, the film can be a moderately entertaining watch for the family. The painful sense that certain issues touched in the film can leave a pang to the viewers that can dampen the hilarity available to enjoy. Nonetheless, important lessons can be learned for simply watching this film.

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus

 

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When Good Parents are Away

CLASSIFICATION MC Mature Catholics

RATING Three of 5 Stars

Distributed by Lionsgate (released in the US on 6 March 2009)

70 minutes

 

The Film

Horsemen is a thriller film that David Callahan wrote and Jonas Akerlund directed.

 

 

The Preview

 

The Story

The film opens with an old man and his dog, one winter morning, walking towards the frozen lake and looking for a tree to cut down. His dog’s barks pointed to a covered dish container placed on a stand at the  middle of the iced lake. Looking around, he finds the phrase “Come and See” in bold red letters marked at the trunk of four trees. As he lifts the lid, his eyes widen.

Meanwhile, Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid), a recently-widowed detective at 246th Precinct, wakes up to that same morning to find himself emotionally detached from his firstborn son Alex (Lou Taylor) who is reading today’s paper in the dining room.

Along the way to the police station, Breslin received a call for assistance in Wisconsin. He drove to the frosty place to learn that no body has been found by the responding police. When he opens the tray, he finds bloody teeth, all sets of it, inside. The local police told him that they sought his help because of his experience in dental forensics. At the police station, he told Chief Krupa (Chelchie Ross) what he learned from the teeth. The puzzle took all his time that day. When he returns home, he finds Alex past asleep.

While attending holy mass with his two kids–Alex and younger Sean (Liam James)–Breslin receives a call from his precinct. He hurriedly leaves his kids at the middle of the sermon, leaving Alex a 20-dollar bill.

A bizarre murder happend. A wife and mother of three (including an adopted Asian daughter) is killed at home. She had been strung up on a suspension rig with hooks, the bedroom walls and windows painted red, and the fetus removed from the pregnant victim. Breslin is interviewing the eldest daughter Kristin (Zhang Ziyi) when the father, David Spitz (Peter Stormare) comes in to embrace the daughters. Breslin left Kristin his work number before leaving.

During the autopsy, Breslin learns that the victim drowned in her own blood that entered her lungs from the circular stab wound piercing the lungs and the heart. She was drugged before she was killed.

Breslin arrives in the school late to pick up Alex. In the car on their way home, Alex tells his father of tickets for a Detroit Red Wings game that night, and asks Breslin if he will be with them. Breslin agrees to go. When they arrive home, Alex tells Sean about the game that night against visiting Reds. Sean bursts with excitement. When the night comes, the kids, faces half-painted in red and white, excitedly prepares to leave for the game as they check on Breslin who just finished dressing down for the game.

But another work call came in reporting of another body found in Broadway. The boys walk away with great disappointment in their face. Breslin removes his Red Wings shirt and angrily throws it back to the wardrobe.

The victim is also hanged, and they find the shocked wife inside the wardrobe. The same modus operandi, and the living room where it happened is painted around with black.

At the police headquarter, Breslin learns of the tattoo parlor whose owner built the suspension rigs by order basis. Its owner confirms that he made four rights for that job.

Later at home, Breslin works on the case photos and evidences. Sean joins him and checks on the blood photos despite Breslin’s warnings not to. Sean asks him: “Come and see, what?” The question leads Breslin to check the phrase in his wife’s Bible, the Book of Revelation chapter 6. He now understands that the killing was ceremonial. But the evidence they had still cannot pinpoint the suspects. Gathering all the information available on the case, Breslin presents to his team the suspects’ profile. So the hunt begins.

With his mind consumed in the case, Breslin almost missed an appointment with the guidance counselor in Alex’s school. He finds out that Alex has not been attending school, and despite his intelligence, Alex is heading for trouble.

The following day Kristin meets Breslin outside the police station. She shocks him when she shows him the bloody fetus that was removed from the body of her pregnant adoptive mother. In the interrogation room, Breslin learns that she killed her mother to punish Spitz. She also hints that the police missed more important evidences at home.

So Bresdin and his assistant Stingray (Clifton Collins Jr.) went back to the Spitz residence, and found her old diary with disturbed drawings on it. Photos drop from the diary, and these shows Spitz having sex with the young Kristin. Back in the interrogation room, Kristen tells Breslin that the 12 hours of torture pays enough for the 10 years Kristin suffered in the hands of Spitz.

While pouring again on the case at home, Alex brought out a birthday cake to remember his dead mother. Father and son get into an argument as Alex, before walking out, accuses Breslin of not being with his mother when she needed him most in her deathbed.

At the police department, the following day, the medical examiner shows Breslin a chip obtained from one of the victims that contains a written biblical verse–Exodus 9:15–on it. The chip leads them to the bomb-rigged base of teh Four Horsement, as the serial killers came to be known. But they suspects got away, and the police came out empty except for the computer hard drive that Breslin salvaged from the destroyed building. Information in the drive leads them into a website.

Meanwhile, in a restaurant somewhere, a young man named Cory Kurth (Patrick Fugit) places white powder from a vial into a coffee and mixes it. When his elder brother Taylor (Eric Balfour) came in, Cory listens as his drunken brother confronts him for being gay and takes the coffee that Cory prepared and drinks it. A bald man watches them from the counter chair. As teh brothers walk out towards their apartment, the man followed him and pulled a knife at Cory demanding for anything in his pockets. Cory quickly stabs the thug in the stomach with an icepick and leaves him to die. But the police arrives on time. The thugh tells Breslin what Cory told him before he fell. Breslin has Cory’s name checked and gets his full name and address.

Somewhere, Taylor wakes up hanging from a rig, the same rig used in the murders. Cory approaches with surgical equipments and confronts Taylor. With his eyelids fixed open, Taylor watches his brother kills himself. When Breslin finds him later, Taylor was mentally deranged.

In the interrogation room, Breslin gets nothing more from Kristin about the other the remaining two Horsemen.

When Breslin arrives home with case folders, he found Alex alone as Sean stayed in a friend’s house to dine. So Breslin invites Alex to eat with him in a nearby restaurant, giving them time to talk. Alex tells Breslin that when their mother died Breslin never came back to them the way Breslin used to be. And again Breslin promises to Alex that after the case, everything will be different.

The following day, Chief Krupa assigns Breslin to another case as teh case of the Four Horseman has been closed with the fourth death (Cory’s). Breslin insists to stay with the case because the Horsemen will be doing something more sinister the following day. He discovered that one more victim has to die before the “veil is lifted.” The victims he notices have once common thing between them. They have the same psychotherapist. Then he realized that Alex too went to the same therapist as the victims, and that the teeth found in the platter was intended to guarantee that Breslin gets the case. His family, Breslin believes, is the target.

Breslin assigns Stingray to secure Alex at home, but hears him hit while they are talking on the phone. When he reaches home, Breslin finds Stingray unconscious on the floor. When he checks the room of Alex, he is not there; he instead finds the room fully painted with white, from walls to the lap to and a pocket Bible. In one wall, he sees the photo of the Metropolitan Theatre with a phrase written on it with blood: “Come and See.”

Breslin drives to the Met, and when he gets inside someone attacks him from behind. Whe he wakes up, he finds himself secured in a seat and sees Alex suspended in the air with the familiar rig, raised over the stage with blood dripping to the floor beneath. Alex tells him that he is the last horseman and his death will be the last sign for others to follow. Alex collapses on the rig as Breslin tries futilely to free himself from the he got handcuffed into. When he got out, he fired shots at the rig to bring Alex down.

The film closes with Breslin kissing Sean as the boy wakes up looking for Alex. Breslin tells him that Alex is doing okay. It remained unclear though if Alex survived.

 

The Review

Horsemen is a graphically violent film that explores the extreme consequences to children when parents have no time to spend with them due to the demands of work. The story is riddled with so much pain, visual horror, and despair. It appears to comment more on absentee parenting than a story about law enforcement.

Absentee parenting. The film proposes that children of very busy parents, even those parents in the law enforcement, could turn into criminals under their nose. Alex had to take over his father’s role towards his young brother Sean, and silenty endure being abandoned too, because of Breslin’s frequent absence and emotional disconnect from them. The very frustrating thing about Breslin’s job was the unscheduled and urgent callsof duty that broke through family time as the job required so. These calls came in the middle of something beautiful and binding for the family–while on their way to a game, at the middle of a sermon, and practically when one or both of his children needed him. He made many promises to be with them that he never kept because of the pull of work. And he always left Alex money each time he leaves them, as if buying his absence. These incidents gave Alex the impression that Breslin ditched them.

The issue brought up in the film is timely and represents a call to working parents to make painful choices between two important things in their lives–job (a financial resource to support self and the family) and the family (the very people parents worked in the first place to support). It also brings up the reality that many times, the family can come much later to the life of a parent already having his work when marriage happened; and thus the family’s importance can at times be placed at the  backseat.

The film also invites viewers to look into their own lives, to look hard enough and see to it that their values have been in proper order as Christians must continue to do. In Roman Catholic teachings, the first order of priority must be God (the person’s close relationship to his Creator). The second order of priority is other people. And for married individuals, other people refer to one’s family–spouse, children and parents–first; then the community. For the unmarried, other people mean their parents and siblings, and then their community. Work, although important and valued in Christian teachings, is not even mentioned near these priorities.

When these priorities got reversed, the movie tells what could happen to the children.

Child abuse. Another important proposition from the film, although a common one among films dealing with sex crimes, is that abuse can transform a child towards evil. In the case of Kristin, her rape in the hands of her adoptive father became the deciding point of her final move to the darkness and crime. The film illustrates what evil parents can create in their children, and hopes that its repulsive depiction of this particular evil can wake up parents from the dangers their actions can bring to their family.

Adoption. The issue on adoption came up, although with lesser emphasis in the movie, in teh case of Kristin. The film proposed this point for reflection: Can children adopted bring to their adoptive parents the dark streaks of their biological parents? Will adoption be really a wise thing to do, even to those who have their own biological children? How can society ensure that adopted children be protected from evil adoptive parents?

 

The Verdict

Horsemen is too graphically violent for young people to watch. The horror and the sights of blood and death can be unnecessarily distressing to these viewers to justify viewing for the sake of entertainment. And parents must advise their kids to avoid watching this film. At the same time, immature minds can pick up wrong ideas from the movie, albeit unintentionally, such as dynamics of incest or modeling behavior of disturbed youths in the film. Although getting teh movie message with the right mental disposition can forewarn youngsters on things they need to avoid should they too become parents, the risks of wrong messages taken is so high to be worth it.

But matured Catholics and other Christians who can take on a sight of violence with clear mind, the film provides a fitting reminder on what it means to be parents today, with all the increasing demands at work, on what really are the higher priorities of being fathers and mothers of a family while meeting the need to make money to support it. They may hear this question silently asked to them: When situations demand it, which will I choose–my family or my work?  

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus

 

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A tasteful horror

CLASSIFICATION  CP Catholic Patronage

RATING  Four of 5 Stars

Distributed by Village Roadshow (released in Australia on 8 July 2007, in UK on 8 November 2007, in the US on 25 April 2008, and in the Philippines on 13 August 2008)

93 minutes

 

The Film

Rogue is an Australian horror film inspired by the true story of Sweetheart, a giant Australian crocodile that attacked boats between 1974 and 1979. Greg McLean wrote, directed and produced. It won the 2007 Australian Film Institute award for Best Visual Effects and 3rd place in the 2009 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for Best Limited-Release/Direct-to-Video Film.

 

The Preview

 

The Story

The film opens with a visual sweep over the Kakadu National Park of Australia’s Northern Territory where a water buffalo went into the river for a late morning drink. Suddenly, a large crocodile emerged from the water and quickly snatched it into the water.

Meanwhile, American travel journalist Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) arrived in a nearby village from a bus. He is researching for an article, and plants to join a group of tourists on a crocodile-watching river cruise in the National Park. Ryan’s Wildlife River Cruise serves a group of tourists consisting of Pete, photographer Simon (Stephen Curry), a family (Elizabeth, Allen and Sherry), two locals (Gwen and Russell), a couple (Mary Ellen and Everett Kennedy), tour captain Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell), and Kevin, Ryan’s dog.

Along the way, locals Neil (Sam Worthington) and Collin (Damien Richardson) run into them by barring their tour boat with the duo’s speed boat. Only when Kate threatened to run over them did Collin pulled the boat away quickly, throwing Neil into the water to the tourists’ amusement. When the boat moved on, Russell (John Jarratt) throws the cremated ashes of her wife into the river.

As they were about to leave back to the base, Everett (Robert Taylor) caught a flare in his video camera, indicating a distress signal. And more flares followed, already seen by the tourists. Despite their general reluctance, they decided to check the source. So they move forward into the internal part of the Park.

When they reached a dead-end lake and found nothing, Pete suggested they go back as the sun is getting down. They were about to turn around when Kate found something floating, a few meters ahead of them. They saw the forward portion of a small capsized boat. When they approached it, something bumped them underwater, so hard it punctured a hole at the floor of the boat. The situation forced Kate to bring the boat into an islet at the middle of the lake before the boat submerges.

On the islet, Russell observed that the plant growth can only be found at the higher and central part of the islet, indicating that the place they stand up on will be submered in water by night. Panic ensued as he tried to cross the lake towards teh main land, with Everett forcing him off the water. As the argument heated up and Everett watching them from the edge of the islet, the group hears a hush in the water and Everett disappeared. They know that the large croc living in the area took him.

Fear descended upon them, just as Neil Collin came back on the same boat making fun at them. Suddenly, something hit their boat from underwater, and both get thrown into the water. Neil managed to swim towards the islet; Collin failed and disappeared underwater.

When the night descended, Neil suggets that he will cross the water silently with a rope that will be tied to another tree across the bank. When the rope is ready, Mary Ellen Kennedy (Caroline Brazier) volunteers to go first. However when she reached the middle of the roof, dangling over the silent lakewater, she froze in panic, and cannot move forward. Allen (Geoff Morrell) panics and asks Sherry (Mia Wasikowska) to be ready to cross with him despite being warned that the rope could not take three at the same time. The dead tree holding the rope in the opposite bank fell and the three fell into the water.

Meanwhile Neil tried to get back the rope but the croc attacked him. Allen just reached the islet bank when the croc pounced on him, and dragged him underwater. Pete suggested that they yse the anchor to bait the croc to win time for all of them to swim across.

When the croc took the bait, Pete stayed on the isle to hold on the line as the rest swim across the water. Kate was the last to cross when the croc got away from the bait and attacked her. With the lull created, Pete swam across with Kevin, looking for Kate as he passes where he last saw him.

Alone with Kevin and lef behind by the rest, Pete tries to find his way through the forest only to sumble into the home of the giant croc as he followed Kevin who ran ahead of him. There he found the dead body of Collin and then Kate who appears to be alive still.

Pete decided to carry Kate back out of the croc’s lair. Kevin ran off ahead of them. Outside his barks suddenly stopped as a huge shadow moving in covers the sunlight with its huge body. The giant croc returns. Pete hid Kate but not before the animal noticed them.

The croc attacks them relentlessly until Pete used himself as a bait to tempt it to attack him and hit with a sharp stick fixed into a stable rock. The croc took the challenge and launced. The stick pierced its head instantly killing it. Kate, ravaged in her legs, remained conscious though as Pete carried him away.

A few hours later he meets the rest of the tourists with rescue personnel and paramedics tending onto them. Kate was airlifted by a copter.

The film ends with a wall in the restaurant filled with newspaper clippings on incidents involving crocodile attacks in the area. At the center of it was added a new clip on what happened to Kate and the tourists.

 

The Review

Rogue displays a beautiful panorama of the Kakadu National Park–its river, birds, buffaloes, and of course crocodiles. The plot is well-polished, making the situations logical and believable. There are some sticky situations that floor the characters in making a deadly decision that risk their lives.

Public safety.The film touches the issue on public safety in the hands of public utility operators. It asks the question: which must come first, the safety of people on its charge or someone sending distress signals? The film proposes that anyone on the shoes of the person in distress would want the rescue as a first priority. The tourists decided in favor of this proposition and lives got lost in the process. It left open an important question: should the lives of many rescuers be risked to save another lives? The moral justification however as seen in the film is the inadequate appraisal of the danger facing the rescuers. Should the danger has been known well before making that rescue decision, it would have been wiser to leave the rescue to the professionals.

Personal safety. A related safety issue tackled in the film is the choice between self-preservation and risking one’s life to save someone else’s. In ethics, it is issue between altruism (my life is less important than the other’s life) and rationalism (my life is more important than the other’s life). In the movie, Everett tried to prevent Russell from foolishly jumping into the croc-infested water only to be devoured by it. Allen also tried to save himself first by forcing to take the rope beyond its carrying capacity only to jeopardize two other lives in the process, and even losing his own consequently. Kate, on the other hand, took time to swim as she told those who have crossed to move ahead, only to  get herself attacked by the croc. Meanwhile, Pete who chose to be the last to cross teh lake in order to let the others save themselves first got his chance to cross safely. The film apparently does not propose any answer to this ethical dilemma, only showing how the extreme of these choices can look like.

Counterproductiveness of uncontrolled emotions. The film proposes that negative emotions such as panic while it can spur people to move, can put many people in danger. Russell’s panic resulted to the death of the person who tried to save him, Everett. Mary Ellen got hijacked by her emotions and froze on the rope across the dangerous water. Allen’s panic almost killed her daughter Sherry and that of Mary Ellen. The film clearly proposed that the best way to handle a very tense and life-threatening situation is not to act on fear and panic but to stay calm and focused on solutions.

Miracles and the will to survive. At times, the last option can be the only solution left. And a man fighting to survive can find all he needs to eventually survive. This happened to Pete. After doing what he can to avoid facing the great croc and getting away, Pete found himself in a situation where he could no longer run away and have to face the monster squarely. When this happened, he found a way to kill the animal instead.

 

The Verdict

Rogue is a horror film handled with tasteful subtlety and without the usually excessive brutality common in horror films. It succeeded in creating a more realistic storyline that provides a relatively gently frying of the viewers’ nerves. It has also artfully blended beautiful scenery with the fear-inspiring sights of a predatory crocodile. It is a well-thought story as well as stimulating to the eyes and nerves. While the scripting is bereft with philosophical statements, the story itself can be educational to a perceptive Catholic. Everyone in the family can enjoy this film gainfully except for the younger children who might not be able to take well the natural violence in an encounter between men and a beast.

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus.

 

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Saga of "White and Black" Magics

CLASSIFICATION     MC Mature Catholics

RATING     Two of 5 Stars

Distributed by Warner Bros. (released on 15 July 2009)

153 minutes

The Film

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth installment of teh fantasy-adventure Harry Potter film series. It is based on the novel by J. K. Rowling, and written for the silver screen by Steve Kloves, the screenwriter of the first four films. David Yates of teh fifth installment directed.

The film gained distinction as an instant commercial success, breaking the records for biggest midnight opening gross of all time as well as biggest single-day worldwide gross of all time. In five days the film made $394 million, breaking teh record for biggest five-day worldwide gross in history. It is also teh highest-grossing film of 2009 at $934 million, making the all-time list of eight highest-grossing films.

It is dedicated to the memory of actor Rob Knox who portrays Marcus Belby in the film and was killed in May 2008 in a knife attack.

 

The Preview

 

The Story

The film opens inside a board room in a high-rise corporate building in the Muggle world with top managers looking askance as they watch the clouds forming into the face of Lord Voldemort and four dark cloudy streaks of teh Death Eaters break away from the face and attack below. Meanwhile, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliff) reads the papers in a terminal cafeteria when he sees Hogwarts headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore (Sir Michael Gambon) waiting in the subway. harry joins him, and Dumbledore transports them both to the Wizarding world and at the front yard of former Potions professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent), which Dumbledore enticed to return to Hogwarts and from whom borrowed a wizardry magazine. (Dumbledore announced him later as teh new Potions professor, replacing Severus Snape, at the start fo teh term feast at Hogwarts.)

Dumbledore transports Harry to the place of teh Weasleys where he joins Ginny (Bonnie Wright), Hermione granger (Emma Watson), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Wesley matriarch Molly (Julie Walters). Harry is reluctant to return to school after his experiecne at teh Ministry of Magic and the encounter with Voldemort.

Meanwhile Snape (Alan Rickman), later appointed the new Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, receives in his home at Spinner’s End a visit from Draco’s mother Narcissa Malfoy (Helen McCrory) and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) where Severus and Narcissa make an Unbreakbale Vow to protect Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and carry out the assignment if he fails.

While leaving Fred and George’s new shop in Diagon Alley, Harry, Ron and Hermione notice Draco associating with Bellatrix, Fenrir Greyback (Dave Legeno) and Narcissa in Borgin and Burkes, making Harry suspicious. In the Hogwarts Express, Harry attemtps tp eavesdrop on Malfoy, but instead got petrified, and could have died if not with the rescue by Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and her Spectrespecs.

At Hogwarts, Harry and Ron borrow school textbooks for Slughorn’s Potions class. The previous owner of Harry’s copy, the “Half-Blood Prince,” has annotated the book with additional instructions that allow Harry to excel in class and win a vial of the luck potion, Felix Felicis. Meanwhile, Ron becomes the Keeper on the Quidditch team, which makes him a hero. As he forms relationship with Lavender, Hermione was heartbroken. When Harry finds her sobbing in a corridor, he confesses to having feelings for Ginny Wesley. But knowing Ron’s protectiveness of Ginny and would not allow a relationship betwen her and Harry, Harry hides his feelings except from Hermione.

Harry spends Christmas with the Wesleys, during which he discusses the situation at Hogwarts with memebrs of the Order of the Phoeni–Arthur Weasley (Mark Williams), Remus Lupin (David Thewlis), and Nymphadora Tonks (Natalia Tena). He gets ckiser ti Gubbtm whohas broken up with Lavander. Bellatrix and Fenrir Greyback attack the Burrow that the Death Eaters set fire.

Draco cintunes to elude Harry while perfecting the use of a Vanishing Cabinet inside the Room of Requirement. Harry suspects Draco is behind two attempts on Dembledore’s life, one of which almost kills Ron. In his semi-comatose state, Ron mumbles Hermione’s name, causing his relationship with Lavender to deteriorate. Confrinting Draco, Harry hits him with a curse from the Half-Blood Prince’s book, causing severe wounds. Snape heals Draco as Harry retreats. Fearing teh book may contain more Dark Magic, Ginny convinces Harry to leave the book in the Room of  Requirement so that he won’t use it again. While Harry’s eyes closed, Ginny hides the book and kisses him.

In one meeting, Dumbledore shows Harry memories of a young Tom Riddle and reveals Slughorn retains a memory critical to Voldemort’s defeat. Harry retrieves the memory using Felix Felicis. It reveals that Voldemort had been seeking information for creating as many as seven Horcruxes, devices that safeguard a portion of teh creator’s soul, granting him immortality unless the Horcruxes are destroyed. Two of Voldemort’s Horcruxes have already been destroyed–Tom Riddle’s diary and the ring of Marvolo Gaunt, Tom Riddle’s maternal grandfather.

After locating another Horcrux, Dumbledore requests Harry’s help in retrieving it. Inside a cave, he drinks a mind-altering potion that hides a locket Horcrux. Though gravely weakened from excruciating pain, he defended himself and Harry from a horde of Inferi, and apparates (transports) both of them back to the Astronomy Tower at Hogwarts. 

Dumbledore asks Harry to fetch Snape for help, but asks him to hide when footsteps approach. Draco appears and reveals that Voldemort has chosen him to kill Dumbledore, but fails to follow through. Snape arrives, motions Harry to stay hidden, and joins the Death Eaters that came through the Vahishing Cabinet and surround Draco as he hesitates. Snape casts Avada Kedvra curse, killing Dumbledore, and then escapes from the castle with the Death Eaters. While leaving they cast the Dark Mark, wrech the Great Hall and set fire to Hagrid’s Hut. Harry tries to stop them, but Snape deflects Harry’s spells and Bellatrix stuns him. Before departing, Snape reveals to Harry that he is the Half-Blood Prince. Harry returns to school to find the staff and students mourning Dumbledore.

Harry reveals to Ron and Hermione that the locket Horcruz was fake. It contains though a message from “R.A.B.” that he has taken the real Horcrux with the hope of destroying it and the others. Rather than return for their final year at Hogwarts, Harry and his friends vow to seek out R.A.B. and the remaining Horcruxes.

The film ends with Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, flying into the horizon.

 

The Review

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is an occult fantasy adventure of a young wizard and his friends in their continued confrontation against the sinister dark magic of teh reborn-wizard Voldemort and his minions. It is as dark as the fifth film. It presents a good, young and likeable wizard with his white magic as teh nemesis of the dark lord of magic. It also provides fascinating sights on the works of magic when casted through the wizards’ magic wands. The current filmmaking technology makes the visual effects expectedly believable. The apparent natural goodness of Potter and the protagonists in the story provides a very deceptive tool in bring the wonders of magic into a very interesting level. A viewer cannot fail to sympathize with an oppressed boy who had to face dark forces as he finds himself an object of their aggression.

Love and friendship are strong bonds against threats to life. This theme runs through the entire film and its previous installments. While Potter lost his parents, his friends and his parents’ friends acted as his surrogate family. This is one good thing that can be learned from this movie.

Some troubling propositions however must be noted.

Sorcery is okay as long as it is fascinating and fictional. The rationale of fascination (pleasing to the senses) and fictional (who said it is true?) makes sorcery confusingly safer to accept as a valid entertainment subject. Once a person accepts sorcery as “valid” for entertainment purposes, the person loses the sense that sorcery, like other occult philosophy and practice, is a demonic art, real and uses the power of darkness, whether it be called “white” or “black” magic. And like any temptation, it has a character that inspires strong curiosity to seek further knowledge about the art.

Getting fascinated with sorcery does not make a person sorcerer. But it does open the vulnerability in the person’s will through the fascination it inspires, which the devil may take advantage in ways the person cannot foresee. Condemnation of sorcery–as “abhorrent to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12)–is one Jewish teaching that Jesus and the Roman Catholic Magisterium never lifted.

White magic is good, anyway. Magic is the act of using powers beyond what is natural to man through the aid of evil spirits who makes effective the incantation uttered to summon the power. White or black, magic is magic; and not an instance or a teaching in the Christian Scriptures or tradition that good angels, prophets and holy men ever use magic to show the wonders of God’s power. They pray to God for help, not pronounce an incantation. This deceiving distinction between white and black magics makes sorcery acceptable simply because it is white.

Kissing teens in schook is okay. One Hollywood imprimatur here is the causal way teens are portrayed to kiss around in school for all the others to see. This is definitely a cultural matter, but certainly not of the Christian culture. It is a stamp of Western culture, and like any other cultures in the world, runs opposed to teh Christian culture, which it continuously undermines.

 

The Verdict

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a very likeable story of a world without God as the world of sorcery tries to reflect the goodness of God through “white magic.” The storyline remains good and interesting to follow. It also shows the positive things about love, friendship and family. Being darker than its first four installments, it is less visually appealing. It also lost the humor that makes these films light-hearted. Its strength comes from its storyline and believable cinematic rendition.

Catholics are not advised to watch this movie for the deceptive values it proposes throughout the film. Those who insist on watching this film are advised to be more self-aware of their affinity to the delights of sorcery that it may inspire. People who are not capable of this level of self-awareness are warned to avoid this movie for the danger it poses to her soul.

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus.   

 

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Tragedy and Redemption

CLASSIFICATION     MC Mature Catholics

RATING     Four of 5 Stars

Distributed by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow (released on 26 September 2008)

97 minutes

 

The Film

Nights in Rodanthe is a film adaptation of the novel of Nicholas Sparks having the same title. It was filmed in the small seaside village of Rodanthe, the northermost village of the inhabited areas of Hatteras Island as well as Carolina Beach in North Carolina. It is written for the silver screen by Ann Peacock and John Romano, and directed by George Wolfe.

 

The Preview

 

The Story

The film opens with the young girl Adrienne Taylor-Willis (Diane Lane) running on the beach towards her father who carried and spun her around. She wakes up from this dream into a life of a divorced mother, and hurries her two children Amanda (Mae Whitman) and Danny in time for their father Jack (Christopher Meloni) who will be dropping by to pick them up for a vacation. Jack wants to go back with Adrienne and they stay with him in Orlando, but Adrienne wants it discussed when the kids come back.

Meanwhile, Dr. Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) prepares his last things and leaves the family house he sold after he and his wife divorced. He drives off to a barge on his way to Rodanthe where he had booked at a bed and breakfast inn by the sea.

Adrienne unloads her things on Jean’s bed as Jean (Viola Davis) is leaving for an extended trip, and Adrienne will be taking Jean’s place in managing the inn.

When Paul arrived, he finds Adrienne at the porch. She shows him the reserved Blue Room. At 7:30, she serves the supper but Paul transfers to the kitchen where she is preparing the salad because he prefers not to eat alone. So they dine together and get to know each other.

That night Paul recalls the night he performed his last surgery for the day, and had to shut off his son, Dr. Mark Flanner (James Franco). He also remembers the day her wife Jen left him after the divorce. That night, the patient he operated on died.

The following day, Paul visits Robert Torrelson (Scott Glenn), the husband of his patient who died on his table, only to find the recalcitrant son Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) who refused to allow him to see Robert.

In the town’s grocery store, Adrienne heard about the operation that killed Mrs. Torrelson, and knew that the surgeon was Paul. Back in the inn, Paul tells her that Mrs. Torrelson had a non-life threatening cyst on her face but still died on his operating table.

After dinner, Adrienne shows Paul her artworks at the attic. She also shows him a safe box she made from a drift wood. After a call from Jack, which left her fuming, Adrienne and Paul entertain themselves into Jean’s unhealthy pantry supplies by throwing them into the waste bin.

The following morning, Robert and Charlie arrive to see Paul. Robert wants to know what happened during the operation. Paul tells him that she reacted to the anesthesia, which happens only one out of 50,000 cases. Robert insists his loss of his wife of 43 years when Paul tries to defend himself from the blame.

Just after Robert and his son left, the storm came and fast. Adrienne and Paul need to do their best to keep the rainstorm from getting in as the lights turn off. The place is in total darkness except for a flashlight in Adrienne’s hand. Paul just came in on time to save Adrienne from a falling shelf. Alone in the dark, they made love.

Early the following day, Adrienne took the beach, feeling remorseful for not being with Danny, who had an asthma attack the previous night and is in a hospital that very hour. Paul decides to see Robert in his place. Adrienne joins him. It is here that Paul appreciates the depth of Robert’s loss.

That night, a crab crack celebration is held at the wharf area to celebrate the passing of the storm. The singing, eating and dancing that the townspeople join progress into the night as a band of retired musicians and old vocalists took country music into the air.

When the children arrive home, Adrienne makes it clear that she and Jack will not be going back together despite Amanda’s tearful protest. Things go back to normal as Adrienne continues to do her job as a mother of two and Paul his work in the hospital. Meanwhile Adrienne and Paul continue to write letters.

The day Paul misses his scheduled flight to visit her Adrienne wonders why he is not on the plane. The day after, Mark arrives bringing with him Paul’s things, or what’s left of it. He tells her of the change that Mark saw in Paul. And that Paul got consumed into the flood of mud when Paul tried to get some more supplies to take with them. Mark thanks Adrienne for giving him back his father.

Inside Paul’s things, Adrienne finds an unsent letter from Paul telling her that he wants them to be together for life. The pain strikes her deep and she cannot seem to get over it.

Adrienne is deep in sorrow when Amanda and Danny come back from another vacation with Jack. Adrienne tells Amanda what really happened between her and their father. Adrienne told Amanda about Paul.

Amanda visits the inn to stay with Jean for awhile as she recalls all the beautiful things she shared with Paul there.

The film ends with Adrienne, while walking on the beach to ease up her sorrow on Paul’s death, as she found an unlikely sight on the beach–a herd of running stallions free and carefree to be what they are. She, accompanied by Jean, Amanda and Danny, bade goodbye to the memory of Paul at the wharf as the wind blew her face. 

 

The Review

Nights in Rodanthe is a tragic romantic story of two divorcees who discovered love after living together for nights in Rodanthe. It deals with the issues of time among married couples, caeer demands, breaking up, and moving on with life. There is so much pain in the story. But there is also redemption and positive change that came out from that pain.

Divorce. The film proposes that divorce may be necessary and must be pursued when couples can no longer live as they have drifted apart through the years or one spouse abandoned the other for another. It tries to show that finding the right person to love after a divorce can happen. While the proposal is believable as presented in the movie, it remains to question how hard the couples worked for their marriage, and if there is still something that forgiveness can do to help renew a difficult union. While abandonment may justify unforgiveness and divorce, Catholic morals decry divorce as a solution to marital difficulties, maintaining that everything is possible for couples who sincerely want to work for it through God’s grace. Since most marital problems are caused by lack of effective communication, viewers are invited to decide whether the grounds for separation in this  movie are valid and justifiable.

Career. The film also correctly emphasized the dangers of so much commitment to professional work, leaving no time to one’s family. The film understands this, and attempts to emphasize the problems created when couples happen to choose wrong priorities in their married life. A physician who loves his work so much so as to leave him no time for his wife and son. That love becomes ironic in view of his decision to get married in the first place. The imbalance broke Paul’s family, estranging himself from his wife and his only son. The film however provided redemption for this family failure in the medical mission that both father and son have mutual interest on and through which they rediscovered their relationship. But the broken relationship with the wife appeared to be irreversible.

Professional failure. One of the sources of pain in this film is Paul’s professional failure that costs a wife’s life in a medical procedure he performed hundreds of times over and successfully. The pain of loss was overwhelming to the patient’s family, but eventually became a chance for Paul to learn compassion and for the surviving family to forgive… ironically through open and honest communication.

Children moving on. The film also explores the confusion and pain suffered by children of divorced parents, their hope for their parents’ eventual reconciliation that may never come. But redemption too came when the children understood that their parents may not be able to live together anymore because of past mistakes that broke the relatioinship for good.

 

The Verdict

Nights at Rodanthe is a movie of pain and redemption, which Catholics may find very rich with lessons on married life and love. While it presented divorce in its positive picture, it is honest in portraying the pain of loss, of broken relationships, and the need to repair and heal the wounds left, and eventually achieve redemption. Despite its good parts, it is a typical Hollywood movie in handling sex.

The film can be educational to mature Catholics, but not recommended to the young and less mature in their faith. It represents a two-sided blade for married couples as the positive outcomes of the story can be educational as well as a source of temptations in justifying the easier course in separation, annulment or divorce in handling a troubled marriage.    

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus

 

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The Soloist_2009

The Grace of Music

CLASSIFICATION     CP Catholic Patronage

RATING     Five of Five Stars

Distributed by Dreamworks (first released in the United States on 24 April 2009) and by Universeal Pictures internationally

 

The Film

The Soloist is a drama film directed by Joe Wright and written for the silver screen by Susannah Grant, based on a true story of Nathaniel Ayers written in a book The Soloist (2008) by Steve Lopez.

The film won the 2009 Best Buddy Movie award from AARP Movies for Grownups Awards.

 

The Preview

 

The Story

The film opens with a newspaper delivery man throwing around Los Angeles Times subscriptions containing a front-page story (“Life Has a Mind of Its Own”) written by Point West columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.).

Meanwhile, that same early morning, Lopez goes out on a bicycle to a construction site where he meets an accident, bumping his front wheel into a crack in the road, throwing him off the bike and injuring the right side of his face. After four weeks of disorientation, he reports back to work with a disfigured right eye.

While walking around Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles, Lopez accidentally meets a bum named Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) who plays a two-stringed violin at teh foot of Beethoven’s statue. He makes friends with Ayers. His interest gets awakened by the great talent that Ayers displays. He starts calling around, and finds out that Ayers was a musical prodigy at Juilliard School, but developed schizophrenia during his second year and dropped out towards the end of that school year. Ayers took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Intermittent flashbacks show the earlier life of Ayers as a young student at Juilliard as Lopez researchers about him.

As the Ayers articles start coming out readers got sympathetic with Ayers. One reader, an old woman who played cello for 50 years until she stopped because of arthritis, sends Lopez a cello that Ayers may use. He makes Ayers play with the cello for  a few minutes, and cuts Ayers a deal that Ayers can only play with the instrument again and thereafter if he will do it in the Lamp Communities, a shelter for the mentally ill, in a place known as Skid Row.

Lopez seeks the help of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra principal cellist Graham Claydon (Tom Hollander) to rehabilitate Ayers. Claydon will be giving Ayers cello lessons. Lopez friend and therapist at Lamp, David Carter (Nelsan Ellis), offers for Ayers an apartment at teh Transient Living Center (TLC) that can both be used as Ayer’s apartment and music studio for cello lessons. Ayers initially refused but buckled down. With his loot cart in tow, Ayers took apartment B116. As Ayers starts playing the cello, Lopez leaves and picks up Claydon to meet up with Ayers for their first lesson.

Lopez and Claydon make arrangements for a solo cello concert for Ayers before a small audience. But the moutning pressure makes Ayers recall a bad experience with his mother during his breakdown, which led him to leave her and hit the streets. Ayers leaves the concerto only before he is able to start a piece. Lopez is frantic on what happened to Ayers as he cannot be found, only learning later that Ayers appears in Skid Row behaving like a normal person eating his food and returning to the TLC apartment on his own.

Lopez decided to make arrangements for Ayer’s treatment. But when Ayers discovers the plan he furiously threatened Lopez and tells Lopez not to see him again. Hurtling for his mistake, Lopez visits his LA Times editor and ex-wife Mary Weston (Catherine Keener) in her place. He decides to get Jennifer Ayers-Moore (Lisa Gay Hamilton), Ayer’s sister, to see Ayer in Lamp. Ayers thanks Lopez and asks for his forgiveness. Lopez assures him that it is part of being friends.

The film closes with Ayers, Moore, Lopez and Weston watching the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in concert. Post credits show the patients in Lamp dancing happily with Lopez and Weston.

 

 The Review

The Soloist is a beautiful movie about friendship, music and an exploration of mental illness as well as teh development of talent. It is also in certain scenes hilarious. It is free form the usual downsides of a Hollywood movie. The music selection is superb and the cinematography artistically sensitive. Foxx and Downye Jr. performed wonderfully in their roles. It is rich in both positive and negative emotions as well as good value propositions.

Grace abounds even in unlikely people. Lopez is a sensitive writer, and like any sane persons is unlikely to befriend a schizophrenic bum. But the gift of music in Ayers became a tool of grace to build on and grow their friendship. Even the mentally ill the film proposes may receive so much grace from above. And this grace simply attracted many characters to help Ayers overcome his mental illness through his music. People around Lopez and Ayers also got drawn in love by grace–Lopez gets closer again to his ex-wife; Ayers meets his sister after many long years of separation.

Music can touch souls when people allow it to. The film proposes that music can become a powerful healing instrument for mental illness. In some ways it also brings healing even to the normal people it touched in the story. Music apparently is a powerful vehicle for the grace of healing.

Only love can bring people “back to life.” It is Lopez’s love for music, his craft, and Ayers that enabled Ayers to find his way back to life after so many years of getting lost in downtown Los Angeles. Without Lopez’s persistent love that goes beyond the interest of his writing, Ayers may have died in the streets, alone and his gifts lost with him.

 

The Verdict

The Soloist is rich with love, warmth, gentleness, and heart-rending slice of life, sprinkled along the way with wit that makes the viewer silently smile or laugh. It is a wholesome movie for the family and any Christian viewer.

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus

 

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Intolerance and Vocation

Intolerance and Vocation

CLASSIFICATION     CP Catholic Patronage

RATING     Five of 5 Stars

Distributed by Miramax Films (released on 25 December 2008)

104 minutes

 

The Film

Doubt is the film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s stage play Doubt: A Parable, written in 2004, originally staged off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club on 23 November 2004, and winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Shanley writes and directs. It receives five Academic Awards nominations on 22 January 2009, and racks best actress and best supporting actress in eight awarding bodies.

 

The Preview

 

The Story

The film opens with her mother waking up Jimmy, an altar boy in the nearby church, to prepare to go to church early for that Sunday’s Mass. Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), another altar boy and the nearby school’s first black student, arrived just in time for the Mass to start. In the service, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gives a sermon on the nature of doubt. While the mass is going on, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the strict principal of the parochial school, notices students whispering among each other or sleeping; so she stood up and slapped them to proper behavior. After the  mass, Miller approaches Fr. Flynn and tells him that he wants to be a priest like Fr. Flynn.

The following day and during the history class of Sister James (Amy Adams), Sr. Aloysius performs an inspection of the students and catches one child wearing an earphone while attending class. That evening she discusses the sermon with her fellow nuns of the Sisters of Charity of New York. And she expresses concern that something wrong might have happened around the place to merit the homily on doubt. She asks if anyone has observed unusual behavior to give Fr. Flynn cause for the preaching, and instructs them to keep their eyes open.

Fr. Flynn teaches Physical Education for boys in that school. Being so, he is close to the boys whom he once in a while treats with some glass of juice and talk about dancing with girls. One night the priest, with the bishop and another priest, had supper talking about a fat mother and laughing their heart out at it.

Sr. James, a young and naive teacher, observes the closeness between Fr. Flynn and Donald. One day during her class, she receives a call from the priest asking for Donald in the rectory. Sometime later, while watching the dancing class in the gym, she sees the priest place something in Donald’s locker. When she checks, it turns out to be the boy’s wet white undershirt. That afternoon, she told Sr. Aloysius of the incident in the classroom; and that when Donald returns to class, he looked “very frightened and puts his hands on the desk in a most peculiar way.” She smelled alcohol on his breath.

The following week, Fr. Flynn talks to a boy outside the principal’s office for talking in his class. Under the pretext of discussing the upcoming Christmas pageant, Sisters Aloysius and James confront the priest with their suspicions that his relationship with Donal may be inappropriate. The priest tells them to leave the matter alone as a private issue between the boy and himself. But the principal insists. So the priest relents, telling the nuns that the boy had been caught drinking altar wine. He had promised Donald not to tell anyone about the incident, and that he could remain an altar boy. Now, forced to break the promise, the Fr. Flynn tells Sr. Aloysius that he needs to dismiss Donald as an altar boy. The priest tells the principal that he is disappointed in the way she handles the issue.

Sr. James on the other hand feels relief, convinced that Fr. Flynn is innocent. But Sr. Aloysius remains unshakable with her suspicion.

In the following Sunday’s Mass, Fr. Flynn tells a story of a gossip-mongering woman who died and went to God. As a penitence for her misdeeds, God tells her to open up a pillow on her rooftop, throw away the feathers into the wind, and then collect all the feathers back into the pillow.

In the church’s ground after the Mass, Sr. James confronts Fr. Flynn about the undershirt she saw him leave in Donald’s locker, something she did not reveal to the principal. The priest tells her he found it in the sacristy and wanted not to embarrass the boy some more. They discuss their common loves for the children. Sr. James’ doubt receives assurance. And Fr. Flynn asks her not to let anyone destroy her compassion. After that Fr. Flynn makes some effort to avoid Donald.

The principal sends for Donald’s mother to reveal her suspicions. And Fr. Flynn discovers it. Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis) learns that Donald has been removed as an altar boy. But she shocks the nun when the mother asks her that the matter may not be pursued further because the boy only has until the end of teh school year (two months more to go) before going to a better high school. Mrs. Miller hints the nun of Donald’s homosexuality and teh physical abuse he suffered from his father. She begs the nun to drop teh matter, and rationalizes that Donald’s relationship with the priest protects him from his father and enhances his chances of going to college.

Despite having no evidence, Sr. Aloysius demands that Fr. Flynn tells the truth or she will go to his superiors. He repeats that there is no illicit relationship. But the nun conjures a story about his problems, having been moved to three different parishes in five years. And that she knows details from another nun in one of his previous parishes, which she refuses to identify. The priest was furious for her not contacting the parish priest instead, and breaking the accepted protocol of getting reliable information. She demands that he resigns. Unable to put up more to her willingness to destroy his reputation, the priest succumbs to her demands.

In his final Mass, Fr. Flynn talks about providential call that leads a person to wherever the spirit wants him to. After the sermon, Sr. Aloysius tells Sr. James that although Fr. Flynn has left, he is also appointed pastor at St. Jerome’s Church; in effect, a promotion. She admits to Sr. James that she lied about speaking to a nun at his former parish.

Sr. Aloysius concludes that one also pays a price for pursuing wrongdoing.

The film ends as Sister Aloysius breaks down into tears and she tells the younger nun that she has such doubt.

 

 The Review

Doubt is a complex movie of human motives as teh intention of uncovering the truth turned into a misguided quest for retribution based on a lie and twisted with pride. The story is tragic on the aprt of a priest who may have gained something towards reforming himself from a past clouded with a question on misdemeanor. But like any story of other people’s lives, there is always uncertainty because no one will ever know what is in a person’s heart.

Sin can be justified as a means to something good. Sr. Aloysius has naturally signed up to the idea that it is alright to commit sin in order to uncover wrongdoings of other people. The nun, who used to be a wife, operates with the usual reticence of pride which does not allow the possibility that she made a mistake, and prefers instead to destroy a priest’s reputation to admit her own mistake on the issue.

Pride can turn something good into something remorseful. Sister Aloysius, an inherently mistrustful and suspiciois character of a nun, started ti right to seek what happened in order to protect her student. That is part of her job as the principal. But her intrigue-predisposed mind overdid it by following her gut feeling, and let pride sets in to make her feel so self-righteous to plot for the downfall of the priest based on a lie not of the truth. Has she really wanted to know the truth and sought for it, she may find out something entirely different. In a way, she did not want to find out something different, something that contradicts what she believes in. She startedwith a desire to know the truth and ends up embracing a lie.

Pride led Sr. Aloysius to act on her own authority, breaking away from the established syste that governs proper way of placing a complain on a priest’s suspected behavior, violated her vow of obedience, and her vocation was in tatters.

A taste of sugar may make pleasures uncontrollable. Sr. Aloysius epitomizes an ultraconservative albeit undiscriminating attitude towards non-harmful pleasures of life such as a tasty food (use of three spoons of sugar in a coffee), convenience in writing (use of ball-point pens). She believes that what is pleasurable and easy can be come a beginnign in the breakdown of moral fiber. While this cautious approach to disipline of the body is philosophically valid, its application to things that requires no moral justification makes it so cold that it can stifle even teh good feelings associated with loving and compassion. And she has ceased to be loving and compassionate, way back her story starts.

Seggregationist beliefs alienates as well as hurts. The film proposes that even religous people may not be immune to their brand of seggreagationism, be it racism or not. And any action can be defended with intelligent arguments. What the sister did not know was the burden that Donald carry, which may have pushed him self-destruct–do something so bad that the school will expel him, relieving him on the pressure brought about his being black.

A mother’s care can be a stabilizing factor to a son. The love of a mother breathes out in the statement of Mrs. Miller–“I’ll be standing with my son and those who are good to my son; and I hope you’ll be standing with me there. This all-consuming love for her boy, shielded Mrs. Miller from the intrigues started by Sr. Aloysius.

 

The Verdict

Doubt  is a movie about intolerance, a subtle form of pride through an ego-centered self-righteousness, and the doubt it can bring into a person’s vocation in life. The film exlores the workings of pride in a Christian life, and the fruits of this cardinal sin–intolerance, untruthfulness, scandal-mongering, intrigue-making, and many more. It is a great movie for Catholics to watch and contemplate.

Reviewed by Zosimo Literatus

 

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