DIRECTOR: Tom McCarthyspotlight_ver2

CAST: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian D’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Gene Amoroso, Jamey Sheridan, Billy Crudup, Maureen Keiller, Paul Guilfoyle, Len Cariou, Neal Huff, Michael Cyril Creighton, Laurie Heineman

RUNNING TIME: 129 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: The Spotlight investigative division of The Boston Globe uncovers a global scandal involving the Catholic Church and several cases of child abuse…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

This is the kind of film that leaves you utterly speechless as you exit the auditorium during the credits. It will shock you more than the good majority of horror films over the past twelve months, it will leave you more legitimately furious than some of the worst films you can possibly see, but no matter how many emotions you may be feeling afterwards you will still struggle to find the right words to comprehend exactly how you feel.

Spotlight is a film which is THAT powerful.

Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy has made a film that not only highlights one of the biggest scandals in the Catholic Church’s history, but hits every single emotion along with every new revelation that is discovered; you will feel such a mixture of anger, sadness, fear, disgust and not-so-much joy that even the emotions from Inside Out will have a difficult time trying to come to a fair conclusion about it. But one thing is for certain: this is a film that absolutely needs to be seen, no excuses, by anyone who can stomach the vile atrocities that the Church committed, which if luck will have it should be the majority of everyone reading this.

The film starts off in 2001, when The Boston Globe newspaper and its investigative Spotlight division, headed by Michael Keaton’s Walter “Robby” Robinson, is challenged by its new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to follow-up on a systematic pattern of Catholic priests accused of abusing children in their parishes. The work done by reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James) raises the initial number of thirteen priests in the Boston area to roughly 6% of the entire regional priesthood, coming up to a shocking total of roughly ninety.

From there, their findings become ever more intense and disturbing, and the film never lets up even as it becomes more grotesque and unthinkable, giving us every solid fact about what certain priests were doing, and how they continued to take advantage of children struggling with emotional problems like coming to terms with their sexuality or grieving for their dead parents. To think that, for a long while, the Catholic Church was not only willing to cover up their crimes but also sweep it under the rug through multiple settlements involving large payoffs and NDAs, it is truly sickening to think that one of the most powerful religions in the world could, and did, make all of it go away in one fell swoop, with no regards to the conflicted emotions of the victims (some of whom are seen having multiple needle injections on their arms, or being regarded to as “lucky” because they’re still alive). The beauty of McCarthy and co-writer Josh Singer’s writing is that it never singles out certain victims, presenting every person that the journalists interview as all being part of one systematic flaw that nobody seems to be doing anything about. The more you hear the victims recount their frankly horrific stories, the more you desperately want these scum of the earth to get what’s coming to them – but as the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, so you’re truly rooting for this small team of investigative journalists to do their job and expose this horror to the world as accurately as possible.

It is also fascinating that the entire script is made up of pure information, which is usually a kiss of death with any narrative story that should also balance out story and character, but this is the type of film where that feels entirely warranted, because the drama is in the incriminating discoveries that everyone on the team individually discovers, whether it’s coming face-to-face with a priest who flat-out admits his molestation without a hint of remorse, or discovering that one of many parochial residences housing several paedophile priests is only a minute’s walk away from where Carroll lives with his family. It keeps you glued to the screen all the way through, without anything going by that would have you glancing down at your watch, lest you miss something vital even in the smallest details.

The investment also comes from the highly commendable ensemble cast, with many of them giving career-best performances in grounded roles that never become too showy to a fault; there is not a single one that stands out among the rest, because everyone is given a fair share of character to work off of and they all work together, as any strong investigative group would, to support each other and make things work out for the best for each other rather than just stealing the show for themselves. McCarthy directs each and every one of them with the kind of appreciation and dedication that any great director would, which should hopefully also get people interested in checking out his previous filmography like The Station Agent and Win Win (you can give The Cobbler a miss, though…).

Be warned, however; while Spotlight is most certainly one of the best films you could possibly see for a while, it will leave you afterwards in such a state of shock over events that actually happened, that you’ll have to take real time to assess how you’re feeling afterwards; whether it’s through a silent moment of reflection or a meaningful conversation with another person, you will come out of it feeling completely devastated, in the best possible way.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Spotlight brings up a sensitive topic in a way that not only makes it incredibly engaging but also stirs your emotions as you learn of the despicable behaviour the Catholic Church displayed when covering up several cases against it, with Tom McCarthy’s elegant writing and direction, as well as an excellent ensemble cast, keeping you heavily invested from start to finish. It is essential viewing for anyone who appreciates journalism of any kind, or even filmmaking on a low-key scale like this which can still arouse powerful thoughts about faith and trust. It is absolutely astonishing.