The true story of how The Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
ActorsStarring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan, Len Cariou, Paul Guilfoyle, Elena Wohl, Maureen Keiller, Neal Huff, Michael Cyril Creighton, Richard Jenkins, Gary Galone
‘Spotlight’ is the section of the Boston Globe’s paper that looks beyond and delves deeper – work done by the paper’s investigative journalism team led by Robby Robertson (Michael Keaton). In 2001, the newspaper gets a new Chief Editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) who needs to modernise the paper to keep it relevant in the times of early fast internet growth. Marty suggests the Spotlight team take a closer look at priest Geoghan, as there have been various stories about accusations against him. Initially the reactions in and around the team are mixed, as in Boston the catholic church is considered a key pillar of society, and holds significant informal power across the community.
The research of the team start to show indications and later evidence that Geoghan’s isn’t an isolated case: there are many, many, many more Boston priests involved in child abuse, and these cases apparently never lead to prosecution, so ‘the system’ must be aware and involved in covering up these crimes and protecting these priests. The case builds and the Spotlight team experiences more and more of the pressures that have held this child abuse by members of the church under wraps for decades. Marty explains that he’s not looking for a witch hunt of specific individuals – be it a priest or Boston’s cardinal – they should investigate ‘the system’.
The subject of the movie is gripping, and the approach the movie takes is appropriate: it centres around investigative journalism and the role of freedom of the press, and avoids sensationalism. In doing so it takes a very understated approach which generally serves the movie well – it keeps you fully involved throughout its two hour running time, and as the story expands and the scale of abuse gets exposed, it is building up to the grand expose: publishing the explosive story.
The understated approach of the movie brings drawbacks in that the main characters are portrayed as solid investigative journalists but rarely as ‘people’ with a personality, emotions, baggage, or anything that makes them human. They remain rather shallow with the notable exception of Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, who gets to show passion and blow his lid a few times. On the other end of the spectrum is Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer who comes off as a first-time actress not managing to give her character any personality whatsoever and her well-meaning ‘I understand’ nods just look amateurish.
After a fine build-up, the finale is a bit of a disappointment in my opinion. It is somewhat abrupt and after learning about the scale of the abuse you want to see the church properly brought to justice. But the movie’s core strength is about showing the value of solid investigative journalism and freedom of the press, and the film does so in a praiseworthy manner.