Starring: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Patricia Collinge
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Running Time: 108 mins
Shadow Of A Doubt is an American film about a woman who becomes convinced that her visiting uncle isn’t who he says he is, leading their relationship to fall apart with suspicion.
This may not be one of Hitchcock’s most famous or enduring works, but there’s no denying that Shadow Of A Doubt is pure Hitchcockean fun from beginning to end, with an engrossing and thoroughly unpredictable story that’s complemented by a whole host of great performances, intriguing characters, and a mysterious atmosphere in general, all of which keeps you hooked at every moment.
Let’s start off with the story, because while Shadow Of A Doubt isn’t on a level of fame akin to Psycho, Vertigo or North By Northwest, it’s still full of all of Hitchcock’s classic traits. Following a typical story of a case of mysterious identity, the film centres on the changing emotions of a young woman as she discovers her beloved uncle may not be who she always thought.
In that, the movie is very reminiscent of the brilliant Suspicion, but with an added bonus of emotional turmoil for our main character, and as she goes through a period of immense confusion and devastation when she becomes convinced of her uncle’s real identity, there’s also a hint towards a coming-of-age story, as she grows from being a doe-eyed daughter to a more hardened, world-weary woman, as she realises that not everything around her is quite as wonderful as she always thought.
The lead performance from Teresa Wright is excellent throughout, as she proves a hugely likable presence while also juggling the difficult emotional transition from an innocent young woman to someone who becomes deeply suspicious of her own family member. Meanwhile, Joseph Cotten is great as the object of her suspicions, with enough suave charm to convince you of his identity as both a loving uncle as well as someone hiding something far darker, and in the process playing into all the classic Hitchcockean ambiguity that makes the movie such a great watch.
Hitchcock’s direction is as great as ever, and although many of his films from the 40s aren’t quite as lauded in the way many of his bigger productions later on are, there’s always a burning intrigue and mystery to the movie that makes it enthralling, with a screenplay that feeds enough information to you to think that everything makes sense, but with enough unpredictability to keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting for something to completely subvert everything you thought you knew.
It may not have the piercing or devastating thrills of some of the director’s greatest films, and there are moments of downtime throughout here that mean it’s not quite so breathless, but it’s that consistent intrigue that’s fostered by the excellent directing and enthralling screenplay, as well as the fantastic lead performances, that makes Shadow Of A Doubt a really entertaining and exciting watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8 overall.