A young African-American boy becomes the first black student at New York’s St Nicholas’s School. Donald Miller (Joseph Foster) is a lonely boy, abused by his father, and with no close friends to whom he can relate.
A set of mysterious circumstances revolve around Donald and the priest of the attached church, Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). These lead the school’s headmistress, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), to investigate the matter. Sister Aloysius believes that Father Flynn is having inappropriate relations with Donald. Caught between the two is the young Sister James (Amy Adams).
It is her observations that lead Sister Aloysius to draw her conclusions in the first place, and Sister James initially agrees with her assessment. But after Father Flynn explains his side of the story, she is not so certain of his guilt. When Donald’s mother (Viola Davis) is made aware of Sister Aloysius’s suspicions, she chooses to keep Donald at St Nicholas’s, since Father Flynn is the only person who shows any kindness to her boy.
Despite intensive investigations, Sister Aloysius is unable to find any solid evidence against Father Flynn, and so we are left experiencing the theme that runs throughout the film: doubt.
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