Let’s be honest – Spotlight (2015, dir. Tom McCarthy), now being an Oscar winner for Best Picture, is a film you’re probably going to see at the cinema regardless of what any Joe Bloggs film reviewer is going to suggest. It has received a solid amount of acclaim and various golden trophies. But is it worth parting with your hard earned dollars to see at the cinema? Its synopsis is as follows:
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. (source)
The scandal of the abuse of children at the hands of senior figures within institutions such as the Catholic Church is an issue that has been occurring for a very long time. It is an issue that has been bubbling away behind the scenes, seemingly with many people knowing about it, with a lot of behaviour normalised and/or dismissed, and with the vast majority of perpetrators of sexual assault going unpunished for their crimes against children. This issue is particularly relevant in Australia at the moment, with a Royal Commission into child sexual assault in institutions occurring as we speak; with one of the country’s most senior Church officials giving his evidence and making a lot of people very angry. Spotlight seems to have come at just the right moment to bring further awareness to this issue, to let people know that this is a very serious and systemic problem that needs your attention.
Spotlight is very factual. It is analytical. It seems to go about its business like an investigative journalist writing an article on such a broad issue; using a funnel-shaped approach to first look at the bigger picture, then zone in on the specifics to reach its conclusion. When watching this film, and when being exposed to its superb script and storytelling, it does feel like you’re on the hunt for knowledge along with our journalistic heroes. But we learn as the story progresses that it’s not just people of authority in the Church that have let victims down, and that the people we know as heroes may have not protected children to the best of their ability either. Spotlight is multilayered. It’s a journey that drip-feeds information in such a rewarding way, bringing its viewers along on a quest for information, and ultimately justice for the many victims.
One of Spotlight‘s biggest assets is its ensemble cast. Mark Ruffalo appears to lead the pack with his passionate performance and increasingly amazing head-tilting as he interrogates interviewees of significance. Rachel McAdams is particularly good when she interviews victims, with a journalistic approach that supports victims in disclosing their abuse history. Michael Keaton’s complicated performance is magnetic, John Slattery retains a lot of his Mad Men charm, and Liev Schreiber puts in a very subtle yet focused performance as the new Boston Globe editor-in-chief on a mission. Stanley Tucci is particularly excellent as a lawyer who seems to have no time whatsoever to help. But I think my favourite performance in this film, one that doesn’t seem to be getting much praise, was by Brian d’Arcy James, one of the team of journalists who discovers that there is a ‘treatment centre’ for accused paedophile priests around the corner from his house, from his children. His discovery in that moment, and subsequent intense determination, was chilling.
Much more can be said about the film’s aesthetic qualities and its beautiful score. But ultimately, Spotlight is all about a story that is continually unfolding as time passes. The dedicated team of journalists at the Boston Globe brought the issue of paedophile priests within the Catholic Church out from the darkness and into the light of a modern age where these crimes can not and will not be swept under the rug anymore. As aforementioned, this is an issue that is uncomfortable to hear about (and some of the dialogue in the film is quite graphic in that regard), but it is a film that has a very important message and history behind it that cannot be ignored. As someone who works with children who have suffered trauma such as sexual and physical abuse, this film made me angry for the victims – and also thankful that a film like this is receiving praise and attention at the highest level. Is it worth watching Spotlight at the cinema? Absolutely.
Is it worth paying for a ticket?: Yes!
Watch the trailer here.
excellent recap and review Anna!
Thanks Rob! 🙂
Great review Anna! I live in the Boston area and saw the unfolding of this scandal first hand. It still drives me crazy that Bernard Law was allowed to scurry off to Rome and get a cushy position at the Vatican. Anyway, these reporters at the Boston Globe are heroes in every sense of the word and I think the movie perfectly captures what happened.
It’s so interesting because what Bernard Law did is exactly the case with Cardinal George Pell from here in Melbourne – coincidentally as all the allegations of abuse by Catholic priests began to pop up, he was shipped off, and now has a very high ranking job at the Vatican and is giving evidence at the hearings via video link because he’s “too sick” to travel. The amount of covering up is sickening, it shows that the reporters really are heroes!
This is one of the many reasons why I consider myself a “lapsed Catholic”.
Good review. Seems like I’m going to have to check this one out.
Thanks heaps, you definitely should!
Great review, it was a really good film. I liked that it was hysterical and focused on the facts and the journalism.
Thanks heaps Lauren! Such a good film.
Great review Anna! Hoping to catch this one sometime soon!
Thanks Zoe, I hope you get to see this soon!
Absolutely worth it. Still my favorite film of 2015 and IMO the Academy got this one right!
I initially was a bit annoyed that Mad Max: Fury Road didn’t win, but when really thinking about the timing of this film and how excellently it’s executed, Spotlight really did deserve the win.
Cool review Anna, I thought you might like it, besides some specific comments I’ve seen online there’s not many people who didn’t like this film, like you said it was multilayered and was definitely about the search for truth, and what I appreciated was the fact that this film never lost focus, got to the emotional root of the issues it was presenting and had such stellar performances from everyone invloved. For me it wasn’t an easy watch because of the way the mysteries unfolded about the church, at the end I really felt dirty, but I guess this film had to bring these issues to light in a realistic manner and it did so very well. 😀
Thanks heaps Curtis! It’s true that learning about this stuff does make you feel uncomfortable and weird, particularly when portrayed in such a realistic manner. Sometimes I feel like the movies that make people feel uncomfortable in relation to social issues are the ones that are the most important to watch. I love films like this.
I could not agree more, I think the first time I watch a film about this kind of subject matter was when I saw Doubt back in 2009 or 2010, and that made me feel uncomfortable as hell as especially with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s role in the film, but it was so dramatic and emotionally powerful.
I wasn’t won over with this movie, and I’m still on the fence on whether or not it’s best-picture worthy. Is it a great film? Yes. Am I going to remember is in years to come? Probably not.
Time shall tell! 😀
Agreed – this movie is definitely worth the price of admission. Great performances and I loved – LOVED – the script. I didn’t think I’d like it, but I was quickly won over by it.
Thanks heaps! It truly is a great movie, and a socially important one as well.
Excellent review Anna. You really nailed it all. And kudos on mentioning the problems we are having down here – the Church has been heavily involved with community services since the 50’s, and its been basically a regular occurrence. It happened twice at my school, once in the 80’s and once when I was in grade 9 – the principal (a ‘father’) suddenly retired with no warning only days after he got home from travelling with a grade seven group of kids. Creepy creepy creepy, this issue really needed a movie like this to open more eyes.
Thanks heaps Jordan! I knew I had to share about what’s happening over here because it just goes to show that this certainly isn’t an America-specific issue. I did hear that there are a number of cases from Adelaide in relation to the Royal Commission as well. It seems like everyone has a story about religious officials acting inappropriately in some way, to many different extents. The problem is so widespread, so it’s good that there are films like Spotlight out to draw even more attention to it.
Excellent write up! I agree with you on Brian d’Arcy James I don’t think I ever saw him in other movies but he was excellent here, especially in the scene you mentioned
Thanks heaps Sati! What an amazing film.
I finally saw this this weekend and I thought it was great but horribly disturbing. It wasn’t my favourite of the Oscar nominated films I’ve seen though but then my pick never wins!
I had originally picked Mad Max: Fury Road to win and was initially pretty annoyed that it didn’t! But this one really was so great. And indeed very disturbing, given the widespread problem of child abuse within certain institutions. I suppose one of the most disturbing things about it is that I’m not sure we’ll ever know just how big of a problem this is, given both the cover-ups and the fact that sexual assault is generally under-reported.
Excellent review, this movie was extremely powerful.
Thanks heaps Vinnie! 🙂 A very powerful film needed for a very serious issue.