Finally, a movie that uses the artistic freedom of cable television for something other that four-letter words and bare breasts: Judgment is a harrowing story about child abuse. The real shocker is that it makes interesting, arguable, but strong implied criticisms of the Catholic Church, something no commercial network would dare.
Keith Carradine and Blythe Danner star as Pierre and Emmeline Guitry, a Louisiana couple whose prepubescent son Robbie (Michael Faustino) claims he was molested by their parish priest, Father Aubert, played by David Strathairn (The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd; Eight Men Out). Writer-director Tom Topor begins Judgment like your average catastrophe-of-the-week TV film, but very soon, unexpected things begin to happen.
When the Guitrys confront the priest, he stonewalls — ”I’m Robbie’s friend,” he says with a thin smile. Carradine and Danner go over his head to the bishop of their diocese. Instead of finding reassurance and results, they discover that the church is withholding information about the priest’s history of sexual misconduct. Church officials otter the family a cash settlement, with no assurance that Father Aubert will be transferred away. The Guitrys are shocked and angered, their faith shaken; they take the case to court, using a tough old coot, played by Jack Warden, as their lawyer.
Topor, who based his script on a real incident, lets us see the pressure the church is under from its insurance company, which won’t insure the diocese’s other priests against molestation charges if Aubert’s case is made public. But Topor, the playwright who wrote the stage and screen versions of Nuts, isn’t interested only in the workings of the church — he wants to get at the ways it affects day-to-day lives, suggesting that it can cause many people to doubt their own best instincts.
Thus, early in the film, Carradine refuses to report the priest’s actions to either the church or the police because, as he says, ”My God, he’s our priest!” Carradine and Danner give wonderfully modulated performances, never succumbing to melodrama. Topor’s script and Strathairn’s acting also permit us to sense much of the guilt and agony in this priest’s life as well. A-