When the principal (Meryl Streep) of a Bronx Catholic High School accuses a popular priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of pedophilia, a young nun caught in between the feuding pair becomes hopelessly swept up in the ensuing controversy. 1964, St. Nicholas, the Bronx: The winds of change are sweeping through this tight-knit religious community, and charismatic priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is doing his best to adapt by revisiting the school's notoriously strict disciplinary practices. Unfortunately Father Flynn's progressive ideas stand in stark contrast to the longstanding beliefs of Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), the iron-willed principal, who believes that an oppressive environment of punishment and fear is the only way to keep the student body in line. Suddenly into this tempestuous environment appears young Donald Miller, St. Nicholas' first black student. When hopeful innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) reluctantly reveals to Sister Beauvier that Father Flynn and Donald have been spending an unusual amount of time together in the church rectory, the unrelentingly righteous headmistress begins a merciless crusade to reveal the beloved clergyman as a lecherous child molester and have him permanently expunged from the school. Yet despite her moral certainty that Father Flynn has committed such an unspeakable transgression, Sister Beauvier has not a shred of actual evidence to back up her audacious claim. Now, as Sister Beauvier and Father Flynn enter into an epic battle of wills, the shock waves set into motion by their explosive confrontation threaten to destroy one man's reputation and tear apart the entire surrounding community. John Patrick Shanley adapted his own play for the screen under the guidance of producer Scott Rudin (The Queen, Notes on a Scandal).
by Jason Buchanan synopsis