• 15
  • John Patrick Shanley (2008)
  • US
  • 99 min
Film Review
Reviewed By
3 out of 5

John Patrick Shanley here writes and directs a chilly, austere adaptation of his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Set in a Catholic boys' school in the Bronx in 1964, it's essentially a claustrophobic three-hander in which a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is suspected of misconduct with the establishment's only black pupil. His chief accuser is the principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), whose cast-iron religious certainty sets her on a collision course with Hoffman's modernising tendencies. Completing this powerhouse trio is an innocent young nun (played by Amy Adams), whose doubts fuel Streep's crusade. Remaining buttoned-up in both garb and morals, Streep's dragon-like inquisitor dominates proceedings, with her wrath sometimes threatening to turn into pantomime villainy. Hoffman brings necessary warmth to the priest - such that we can never be sure of his guilt - while Adams replays the innocence of her princess in Enchanted, except wrapped in a habit. Shanley's dialogue is honed and articulate, but in only his second outing as a director (after Joe versus the Volcano), he is never quite able to overcome the piece's theatricality - despite over-literal use of gathering storm clouds.

Plot Summary

Period drama starring Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In a New York Catholic school in the 1960s, a progressive, charismatic priest clashes with the principal, a strict, old-fashioned nun. When suspicions arise about the priest's relationship with the school's only black student, the principal becomes obsessed with learning the truth.

Cast and crew


Sister Aloysius Beauvier
Meryl Streep
Father Brendan Flynn
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Sister James
Amy Adams
Mrs Miller
Viola Davis
Sister Veronica
Alice Drummond
Sister Raymond
Audrie Neenan
Mrs Carson
Susan Blommaert
Donald Miller
Joseph Foster II
Jimmy Hurley
Lloyd Clay Brown


John Patrick Shanley

Other Information

Theatrical distributor: 
Sexual references.
Available on DVD and BluRay
Released 6 Feb 2009
Certificate 15
Buena Vista Home Entertainment