Oscars Season: Spotlight
In 2001, the investigative section of the Boston Globe known as Spotlight were tasked with exploring claims that a number of priests from the Catholic Church had sexually abused children without punishment. Due to the importance of the Church within the city and the seemingly impenetrable nature of the organisation, the group of journalists were initially sceptical and doubtful that their work would come to anything. Tom McCarthy's film reveals how the Spotlight team subsequently uncovered the shocking truth surrounding the Church and their Priesthood, with major consequences.
The film handles the gravitas of its subject matter well, provoking equal measures of horror and anger with every new case. There is little sugar-coating to be found here and, unlike many modern day dramatisations, every event seems believable and no turn is left to blind coincidence. Phone calls and interviews leave us hanging on every word, piecing together the sheer scale of the situation. There is little need for tiresome exposition and the writing is such that little hand-holding is required to explain the unfolding events.
Spotlight offers solid performances across the board, with Mark Ruffalo the standout as the impatient but driven Mike Rezendes, whose discoveries increasingly disturb the formerly Catholic journalist. Stanley Tucci as paranoid lawyer Mitchell Garabedian also supplies much of the immediacy and tension within the film, as he and the others grow increasingly fearful of what they will uncover next.
Spotlight's unglamorous tone is a common thread and plants the picture in familiar film-making territory. This is not necessarily a criticism towards the film, as the subject matter perhaps deserved a self-assured, tried and tested approach, but it means that (beyond the subject matter) Spotlight lacks the sticking power and memorability of many of the other Oscar contenders of the year.
McCarthy's film still leaves plenty to dwell on. In particular, the exchange between Rachel McAdam's Sacha and an elderly, innocent looking priest stands out as the most powerful point of the picture, driving home the complexity of the situation and the many initial doubts and paranoias that surrounded the molestation claims. This seed of doubt is cleverly sewn through much of the film, with the naivety of many of the journalists returning to haunt them.
Spotlight delivers a powerful, weighty and realistic drama that effectively encapsulates the gravity of the often shocking subject matter. The decision to contain the focus of the film on Boston and the investigative team is a wise one, making clear the global importance of their actions through its impact on the religiously devout city. The unease and feeling of betrayal that runs beneath it all serves as a haunting moral for all.