“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them. That’s the truth of it.”
As the films of awards season come to a close; we’ve had ourselves a depressing buffet filled with true stories this year. From lady inventors and snowy revenge stories, to lady boys and financial crises; anyone delving into these films in the short window we in the UK are getting them is sure to be exhausted just getting through them. So, as we near the end of this year’s journey through the purest of all Oscar-bait films, let’s get on and see something a little more lighthearted, shall we? Priests touching children. There’s a good, easy-going subject, huh?
Taking us back to 2001, Spotlight centres on The Boston Globe who, under new leadership from Liev Schrieber’s Marty Baron, pushes the limits of what Bostonians wanted to hear about their beloved Roman Catholic Church and the priests that reside there. In his first act as editor, Baron meets with Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), the head of the Globe’s investigative “Spotlight” team, and Ben Bradley (John Slattery) – Robinson’s immediate boss; and encourages the pair to follow up on a small column on a paedophile priest that the paper previously ran that garnered far less attention than the new boss thought it should get.
The Spotlight team, which includes Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), jump into their new story. Initially thinking it’s the investigation into one child abusing priest and the Boston Archbishop that helped to cover it up by shifting him around; the crack team of investigative journalists uncover a culture of abuse all but encouraged by the Church with nothing done to stop or prosecute the culprits responsible for the physical and psychological torture that has affected generations.
Filmed in a subtle, understated manner that sits the film comfortably between HBO’s The Newsroom and All The President’s Men; actor-turned-writer and director Tom McCarthy has made the conscious decision to not make the film about the direction and instead let those telling the story on screen do the heavy lifting. And with a cast like the one assembled for this, who can blame him? Definitely enjoying his Birdman inspired career revival, Michael Keaton is pitch perfect as the lead journalist of his specialist investigation team. Knowing just what threads to pull and what buttons to press, Robinson is the head of a well oiled machine and Keaton doesn’t miss a beat for the entire film.
Likewise for those that make up his team and his peers. Oscar nominated duo McAdams and Ruffalo get the majority of the screen time and carry the film like we all know they can. McAdams’ Pfeiffer, a regular church-goer, feels the hardest hit when their story breaks and she has to step back and look at the institution she’s literally worshipped her entire life. Ruffalo gets the clichéd role of the guy married to his job with more commitment to that than his actual marriage, but he takes the stereotype and makes it his own. As he digs a little deeper with each clue he gets, you can see the story taken an emotional toll on the veteran reporter.
The always under-appreciated Liev Schrieber’s part as the new editor causing waves and pushing for the “local story for a local paper” is a brilliant little role for a guy that is criminally overlooked. Likewise with the always brilliant John Slattery who isn’t even trying to shake off that Mad Men typecast of his and is running with it. Rounded off with an amazing turn from Stanley Tucci as the lawyer representing the victims of theSE atrocities, a man who genuinely cares about the people he’s representing. All together, we get a stellar cast who bring together easily the best ensemble fI’ll I’ve seen in the last twelve months.
Spotlight is a brilliant, near perfect film. As a viewer, I was constantly flipping between rooting for the guys investigating the church and being boiling blood angry that these things were being allowed to go on. The film takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that allowed a culture of abuse in Boston for years and points a knowing finger at those that turn a blind eye, still, to these goings on. McCarthy’s direction, while not overly flashy or dramatic – like I said – does everything it needs to do and sets the tone for a film that puts all of Boston into, yeah I’ll say it, the spotlight. His cast though, his cast; I guarantee you don’t find a better, more brilliantly put together group of actors between now and next year’s Oscars. Spend your money, go see this film. You won’t be disappointed.