Spotlight is the true story of an investigative team from the Boston Globe, Spotlight, which worked to uncover a systemic cover up of the child abuse epidemic within the Catholic Church. Based on the true story of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, Spotlight is raw, fearless, and one of the best movies I have ever seen.
Spotlight is a rare drama in which there is never a dull moment; every moment furthers the story, whether emotionally or factually, yet it never moves so fast that you can’t keep up with the detail. Nothing is overdramatic, with the story itself so interesting on its own, and everything detail is told in a very honest way, with the respect it deserves as a real and frightening reality for many victims, both during the last four decades and today. As the film (and the Boston Globe article) reveals, almost 100 priests in the Boston area alone were sexually abusive of children and allowed to reoffend by the Catholic Church. And as we are allowed to meet some of the victims of said abuse, we are presented with the horrifying ways in which it has affected their lives, such as drug addiction, alcoholism and suicide. We are also reminded of the terrifying truth that it could have happened to any of us, and that it is still allowed to happen by the Catholic Church.
Tom McCarthy’s direction is never showy, but quietly powerful as he shows us a side of Boston we have never considered before. Every choice he makes subtly propels the emotion behind the story – the shots of Boston as Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) reads the damning letters sent to Cardinal Law reaffirm the idea that it was a widespread issue in Boston; the sound of children singing carols at church makes the viewer sick to their stomach as they think of how many children are being abused by priests.
Though there isn’t much extra characterisation of the main characters, it isn’t needed, as the film is allowed to focus more on the investigation. However, the incidental characterisation we get, the occasional look into their lives as they happen to work from home, is revealing enough, and feels much more realistic, and appropriate.
Spotlight’s main cast is simply brilliant. Mark Ruffalo’s performance as Mike Rezendes is so human and real, his mannerisms and speech patterns going beyond the realm of regular acting. You could also see how the weight of the investigation was affecting Rezendes, particularly in one scene where he visits Sacha (Rachel McAdams) at her home. You can truly see his conflict as he talks about losing his faith after reading the letters. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer is courageous yet caring, and leading the team as Walter Robinson was Michael Keaton, in tough but never-tiring performance. Liev Schreiber’s editor Marty Baron was also a quiet but outstanding performance, as he encouraged and manoeuvred the Spotlight team in the best direction to produce an outstanding article.
How do you say no to God? An important theme that this film so poignantly captures is the conflict within a city in which 53% of people identify as Catholic. And as the investigation deepens, there is more outrage at the thought that this was allowed to happen by the Church, and that the city is standing idly by. Yet Spotlight, both the team and the film, never wavers in its brave journey to release the truth. Powerful and terrifyingly close to home, Spotlight is a film that demands your attention from the opening frames, and only lets you breathe a sigh of relief once the credits have rolled.
With such a brilliant cast, here’s my list of my five favourite films starring the cast of Spotlight:
- Begin Again – Mark Ruffalo
- About Time – Rachel McAdams
- Birdman – Michael Keaton
- Easy A – Stanley Tucci
- The Avengers – Mark Ruffalo