Tom McCarthy’s new film, Spotlight, shares the painful yet true story of The Boston Globe journalists, and other professionals who worked together to uncover several decades of pedophilic abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
As many critics have observed, and I also agree, part of what makes Spotlight so exceptional is that it does not rely on glitz, grittiness or dramatic reenactments of past events to keep its audience hooked.
Instead, McCarthy provides us with the intimate and non-glamorized perspective of the editors, reporters and Boston attorneys who finally stopped looking the other way, and instead started asking the hard questions to reveal the gruesome truth.
Heading up the cast is Michael Keaton who plays team editor of the ‘Spotlight’ investigative team, Walter “Robby” Robinson. His team of reporters includes Mark Ruffalo as the quirky, passionate and sharp Mike Rezendes, an impressively understated Rachel McAdams as hard hitting reporter, Sacha Pfieffer and Brian d’ Arcy as fellow reporter Matt Carroll who is confronted with the fact he lives down the street from what is revealed to be a sort of ‘halfway house’ for accused priests to live before they are reassigned to a new location, to continue being priests.
Early in the film, we are introduced to the new editor of the Globe, quiet outsider, Martin Baron, played flawlessly by Liev Schreiber. John Slattery, from Mad Men rounds out the cast as deputy managing editor, Ben Bradlee Jr.
On his first day on the job, Baron, who has just arrived in Boston from the Miami Herald, assigns Robinson and his team to investigate the clergy as a result of reading a previous story about accusations against Father John Geoghan for potentially abusing as many as 84 kids.
In real life, many more people were involved in uncovering the sex-abuse scandal that led to over 600 stories written, and multiple awards and honors for The Boston Globe.
Baron is initially met with resistance from his team, as they consider the consequences of really going after the church. The nervous reactions and half-hearted claim that the issue has already been adequately looked into, serves as a pointed message about the costs of becoming complacent around large institutions.
At that point in Boston’s history, in 2001, despite mutterings of abuse and accused individuals being mildly slapped on the wrist at best, no one was willing to hold the church accountable for the atrocities that were occurring.
McCarthy allows the revelations the reporters make to play out in slow, realistic detail. Among them, Rezendes finally resorts to tracking down a judge in order to gain access to church documents the court had sealed and hidden away. Rezendes also builds a relationship and gains the trust of real-life Boston attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, (played by Stanley Tucci) who fought tirelessly for many of the victims of abuse.
We cheer with each success the reporters experience and hold our breath through tense exchanges such as when Robinson and Rezendes disagree over when to break the story. Late in the film, Rezendes reacts with believable amounts of emotion when he learns of Robinson’s plans to hold the story long enough to ensure its information will eclipse the power of the church’s deniers.
But even with these glittering moments, McCarthy is careful not to take our focus away from the real story, the scandal itself. In doing so, we’re able to observe the characters as their true, journalist selves, and the flaws that come with being a human who doesn’t want to rock the boat.
Spotlight reminds us that it’s never acceptable to shy away from painful realities. In this case, we can look to the strength and courage of many who believed in fighting for the rights of the children who could not defend themselves. 98 / 100
Spotlight received an initial limited theatrical release November 5th in the United States and is expected for a home video release in March 2016. I definitely recommend taking the time to plug in and listen to the message portrayed throughout this movie. Check it out and let me know what you think of Spotlight in the comments!