This evening I completed this year’s list of Best Picture nominated movies, with Spotlight. Watching the Academy Awards, I was surprised when this film won the final Oscar. The movie Revenant was favored to win. I knew little about Spotlight, other than the premise. I settled in tonight, curious to discover what made this film stand out.
Spotlight stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James and Len Cariou. This historical drama was directed by Tom McCarthy and has a run time of 2 hours and 9 minutes. The film is rated R for adult themes and strong language.
Spotlight was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Ruffalo, Best Supporting Actress for McAdams and Best Editing. It won for Best Original Screenplay and the coveted Best Picture Oscar.
Based on actual events, Spotlight is the story of how the Boston Globe uncovered a massive scandal and cover-up of child molestation within the Catholic Church. In 2001, editor Marty Baron (Schreiber) assigns Spotlight, a specialized group of journalists within the Globe, the task of investigating allegations against an unfrocked priest accused of abusing more than 80 boys.
Editor Robby Robinson (Keaton) leads the team, made up of journalists Mike Rezendes (Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams) and Matt Carroll (d’Arcy James). Because of the sensitive nature of the investigation and the involvement of the Church, Robby secures the help of fellow editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (Slattery). What at first appears to be an isolated case soon grows in its complexity and breadth. As more and more victims are found, the team discovers that the number of Boston priests involved may number closer to 90.
From attorneys who refuse to disclose information, to Cardinal Bernard Law (Cariou), the Archdiocese of Boston, the cover-up is more intentional and more wide spread than the Spotlight team could have imagined. One attorney, Mitchell Garabedian (Tucci), who fights tirelessly on behalf of victims, finally agrees to help in the investigation by securing crucial documents.
The year long investigation threatens to crack open decades of abuse that has been hidden away, while pitting the Church and its supporters against the credibility of the Boston Globe. In breaking the story, they are breaking the silence.
This was a very well done film. The subject was sensitive, and painful. However, the movie never sensationalized the story nor did it pull back from the gravity of the investigation. This was not an attack against Faith, or even so much an attack against the Church in general. It was an uncovering of a deep flaw in the system that allowed a horrific injustice to continue while leaders looked the other way.
I very much appreciated the flow of the film and the journalistic feel, which was a credit to the director. Rather than make a strong emotional appeal, which would have been easy to do, given the circumstances, the story was presented in a factual way. It was vital that the investigation build its case piece by piece, and that the scope was broad enough, so that there could be no defense against the story that broke. I felt like I got to watch that happen.
Marty Baron said, “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around in the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.”
The impact was huge, and far reaching, and many, many other victims spoke up.
This was a somber movie with an important message. As Marty said, there is enough blame to go around. It takes all of us being vigilant to protect our children. Spotlight made me think and made me aware and in my opinion, deserved the Best Picture win. I was left wondering what changes have been made by the Catholic Church concerning abusive priests, since this story broke in 2002. I’ll find out.