In 2001, a team of investigative journalists from the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe is tasked by their new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) to investigate a cover-up of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.
So Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) get to work. And they slowly progress from little to no substantial evidence, to a treasure trove of concrete evidence and testimonies.
Going into the cinema, I wasn’t really sure how I would be reacting to the film. Religion has always been a touchy subject, especially when Hollywood steps in with what are often questionable interpretations of it. I also worry about moral issues being turned into films, given that there are always aspects of the story that can make or break the credibility of the plot.
With a movie’s box-office performance the priority, I was expecting a watered-down version of the story. But Spotlight was nothing like what I had assumed – Spotlight keeps the story factual and to the point.
It beautifully chronicles the investigative process, and the numerous roadblocks that the team runs into, as well as the different fragments of information that ultimately led to the discovery of a decades-long cover-up in Boston.
One scene that hits you like a punch to the gut comes when a priest admits to Pfeiffer that he sexually abused kids, but that it brought him no gratification at all. If the scene is true to real-life, then the slap-in-the-face reaction that I had must have been how the real Pfeiffer felt.
“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” This line stuck with me as a wonderful summary of the film. With so many cases of abuse, it was unbelievable how many adults it took to bury the story. Again, if the portrayal in the movie is accurate, it was much more than just the Cardinal protecting his priests – there were other rich connections of the church helping to silence these cases.
There was really nothing bad that could be said of this ensemble cast, considering their stellar performances. Everyone took on their roles with so much fervour, it almost felt like I was watching the real crew chase down the story.
Mark Ruffalo, in particular, was the stand-out actor for me. Being a social activist in real life, I saw Ruffalo’s activism seep into the character he portrayed, especially when he was lobbying to run the story in its early stages, when he was told not to by Keaton’s character.
I’m also giving Ruffalo extra points for embodying Rezendes entirely – down to the way he speaks. And no, I’m not talking about the accent. Ruffalo went the extra mile to adopt Rezendes’ mouth and lip movements without ever faltering. Someone needs to give Mark Ruffalo an award, please.
I’d like to give a special mention to musical theatre veteran Brian d’Arcy James. As this was his first ever big film production, I was a little worried he wouldn’t be able to shake off the many theatrical personas he’s known for.
Thankfully, he not only managed to hold his own in this film, but he managed to provide a little comic relief in the role of the ‘concerned parent’ journalist, who finds out about a rehabilitation home for priests near his home and has the funniest ‘dad-like’ reaction.
Spotlight opens in Singapore today. Tell us what you think of the movie!