The powerful true story of the Boston Globe's investigation into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church
There is no need to emotionally manipulate the audience - it is what it is: a shocking insight into the power the Church once held.Based on actual events that spanned decades, Spotlight depicts the eventual uncovering and exposure of how the Catholic Church allowed and turned a blind eye to the child abuse suffered at the hands of over 80 priests and brothers in the Boston area. Spotlight is the name given to the four person team who work within the investigative reporting section at the Boston Globe which is headed up by Walter 'Robby' Robinson (Michael Keaton). When new out-of-towner and Jewish editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) joins The Globe, the Spotlight team are told to drop the story they’re currently working on and focus all their efforts on a child abuse case within the Church which had been briefly covered by the paper and later sealed by a court order.As well as Robby, the team trying to piece together the story includes Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James) who each spend practically every waking hour dedicated to unearthing the shocking and disturbing truth that the Church were desperate to keep quiet. Leaning on his personal connections within the legal industry Robby tries to get hold of the names of all the perpetrating priests whilst Mike works on the victims’ lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) who despite wanting to help is bound by his legal code of conduct. As the team delve deeper into the case they soon discover the sheer scale of the cover up which stretches much further than just the Church.
Spotlight follows the four journalists as they battle to break through the red tape and their struggle to get the victims to overcome their fear and shame in an effort to get justice for themselves and for the many others who were too scared to come forward. Spotlight is directed and co written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer and has already been nominated for several awards which has got to be a huge relief considering both Singer’s last writing project, the screenplay for The Fifth Estate, and McCarthy’s previous film The Cobbler were not entirely well received. However, despite their previous works, they have both hit the nail on the head with Spotlight.
The film’s visual style isn’t anything flash or fancy and aside from some extremely well placed slow zooms, to emphasise a character's emotional state of mind, is it quite simplistic in its style. There is one sequence in particular which stands out where McCarthy cuts between two victims as they detail the abuse they each went through. The intercutting emphasises the horrific ordeal they each experienced but also signifies the varied methods these trusted men of the cloth used to groom and abuse their victims. Instead of using flashbacks with children, the film portrays the victims as adults who are still finding it extremely difficult to talk about their ordeals, despite moving on with their lives - adding more weight and realism to the film.
Everyone knew something was going on and no one did a thing.
McCarthy’s decision not to focus much energy on the priests or even the Church itself is brilliant as it allows the real story of the cover-up to remain at the forefront of the film. Even the acting is wonderfully understated and subtle. There is no Hollywood glamour involved and the focus on the dialogue remains key in the development of the narrative. The entire cast are brilliant and they each deliver a performance which is not only believable but incredibly heartfelt.
Small glimpses into the personal lives of the three journalists (Mike, Sasha and Matt) show just how close they once were to the Church themselves and the impact this case has on each of them and their families. Ruffalo and Keaton are arguably the main characters based on the amount of screen time they each have, but the rest of the cast are each significant in their own way and it’s no surprise to see McAdams up for a Best Supporting Actress award or even the whole cast up for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Spotlight isn’t a film that will leave you feeling remotely upbeat but it is a film that leaves you wondering how the hell the Church and local community allowed child abuse on this scale to continue unpunished for years and were willing to turn a blind eye. It is an extremely well directed and brilliantly performed film that you should definitely try to see. A slow burner with a payout that although it won’t leave you feeling satisfied, will at least leave you with a sense that some justice has been served, even if there is still more to be done.
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