Review of Spotlight: Journalists Expose Sins of the Church

Spotlight Spotlight

Spotlight tells the story behind the story. In 2002 the Boston Globe’s investigative team, known as Spotlight, published a groundbreaking article that shook the Catholic Church to its core and changed the lives of thousands of victims worldwide. What began as a local story about one priest charged with molesting a child evolved into an extensive and gut wrenching expose into widespread child abuse and the church’s systematic efforts to not only dismiss the problem but use its rich assets and political connections to cover it up.

Spotlight is chock full of powerful performances by top rate actors including Mark Ruffalo, Michale Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci. Director Tom McCarthy co-wrote the screenplay along with Josh Singer.

The film is set in Boston and the city is portrayed as being a distinctive character all its own. Spotlight depicts the residents of the North-Eastern city as valuing its heritage and unique way of life. It’s a place where cultural and religious roots run deep and the line separating church and state has been blurred. Spotlight is set amid a milieu saturated by a long-standing and powerful tradition in which the Catholic church plays a major role in everyday life. At one point in the film, incoming newspaper executive editor Marty Baron (played by Schreider) is told that even in 2001, Boston is still a small town and thus espouses to a small town mentality with an innate distrust and even fear of outsiders.

In keeping with this theme, it’s apparent in Spotlight that many native Bostonians abide by an “us versus them” type of mentality. Several times within the course of the film references are made about people perceived as being outsiders. One such character is Baron, a newspaper editor brought in from Miami to take over the helm of the Globe. Not only is he from out of state but he’s also Jewish. Another outsider is Mitchell Garabedian, a rather unorthodox lawyer played by Stanley Tucci. This character is Armenian and in one scene he tells Spotlight reporter Mike Rezendes (Ruffalo) about his belief that it’ll take an outsider to put an end to the church’s coverup of sexual abuse by priests.

Spotlight

Spotlight

Although Spotlight doesn’t show the actual abuse of children, it instead includes a number of powerful scenes featuring victims who provide emotional accounts of their experiences as children. During interviews, the men detail the circumstances by which they came to be molested by Catholic priests. In one case the victim explains that growing up in Boston in a Catholic family meant that priests were perceived as being God. Like the church at that time, priests were viewed as infallible. The man then goes on to explain how step by step he was groomed by his abuser and the long term effects this trauma had on his life.

Spotlight serves as a exploration of the importance of investigative journalism. The film takes place in 2001, a time when the internet wasn’t yet as central and influential to day-to-day life as it is now. Although print media was on the decline due to the emergence of online resources, newspapers like the Boston Globe still served a major role in the community. Reporters not only focus attention on topics such as local and international news, politics, sports, and entertainment, but the Globe also employed a special group of reporters known as the Spotlight team whose job it was to write special in-depth investigative reports. When they took on the assignment of challenging the authority of the Catholic Church and revealing its long-standing directive to cover up sexual abuse by members of the clergy, they were met by resistance and a variety of obstacles.

Spotlight is a powerful film that deals with tough issues and serves as a reminder that no person (or institution) is above the law. The movie also effectively demonstrates the power of investigative journalism and how it has the ability to affect real, lasting change. Spotlight is an intelligent film which proves the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Spotlight is now playing in theatres.

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About C.L. Illsley

I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia but have called Montreal home since 1999. I received degrees from Mount Saint Vincent University & Concordia University. I enjoy writing, watching movies, & most of all spending time with my 4 cats. Contact: Facebook | Twitter | More Posts