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The story of a monastery / boarding school, where the slight modernisation tendencies of Father Brendan Flynn shake some of Sister Aloysius Beauvier’s moral foundations. In her effort to maintain her desired high level of integrity for the school, The Good Sister is willing to follow her gut feeling when suspicions come up against the Father that his relationship to an altar boy went beyond the level of fostering. A quiet stand-off develops that must lead to the departure of one of them.

This is a very simple, naked film, without any cinematic arabesques: the Father is doing his thing and we think he is a nice and modern dude, the Sister is doing her thing and we think she is an old dried-up hag. We do not know whether the suspicions are correct, we are following the Sister’s perspective mostly, and we have to make up our mind in the same way she has to. The narrative trick is just that: to allocate sympathies through choice of performance, leave out the necessary facts, and only towards the end seed the doubt by allowing some successful bluffs that reveal more about the characters’ past than they had previously admitted. All this would not be sufficient to carry a film, it would call to leave the sory on a theater stage, but then again, you have Meryl Streep and Philip Seymor Hoffman, who may be too big for the confinements of a wooden stage. Their interaction is thrilling, especially with Hoffman maintaining his natural (or naturalistic) cool, and Streep building up the Wicked Witch of the East façade that she needs to perform in her role as benevolent dictator of her bees’ hive of a school. It is thrilling to watch that while it goes on, and the abrupt ending allows you to continue wondering who was it that got you, and where on the way you took a moral mis-step yourself.

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