Casting a Spotlight on an Important Film

Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo work the story.

Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo work the story.

Thomas McCarthy’s Spotlight is, hands down, one of the most important films of the year. Its main character, rather than one person, is the team of investigative journalists who share the title of the film, and the story chronicles their reporting on the infamous 2001 Catholic Church sex scandal in Boston.

In a triumphant follow-up of his work in Birdman, Michael Keaton stars as sectional editor Walter “Robbie” Robinson, alongside Mark Ruffalo as the passionate reporter Michael Rezendes. They are joined by an outstanding ensemble that includes Rachel Mcadams, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci. The actors work together to create the investigative journalist team for the Boston Globe known as Spotlight.

While the film is slow at times, with an over two hour running time, it is driven by powerful, authentic dialogue, great acting, the fluctuating excitement and intensity of investigative journalism. Some of its most important and powerful moments are the dialogues between the journalists and victims of priest molestation, but I won’t spoil any specific content. The narrative seamlessly flows as Team Spotlight gains more and more information on the Catholic Church’s high rate of child molestation and their ability to legally sweep it under the rug. The investigation grows from a few stories of various victims to one of the biggest scandals to hit the city of Boston in recent history.

I only have one criticism of the film. It should be noted that I was predicting Spotlight to be one of the best films of the year, so I had a very high set of standards going into it. As I mentioned before, its protagonist is the team itself, but none of the individual characters are clearly ‘the star’. While this uncommon form of storytelling works for a film like Spotlight, I didn’t find it fulfilling. I wasn’t able to be invested in the characters or their development, only in the team and the development of their investigation, so it felt more like I was solving a mystery than watching a film. While good films have the power to put audience members in the shoes of their characters, there’s also a special something in a film that makes it a film and isolates it from its subject. Spotlight lacked that special something, and it simply was its subject: an investigation.

Spotlight is still a great film, despite its inability to seem like one. As I’ve mentioned before, the acting and directing are stellar, and the dialogue is authentic and moving. Most importantly, it’s a powerful and important film. Perhaps the most upsetting and impactful thing about Spotlight is the issue it brings up: the amount of molestation scandals the Catholic Church has gotten away with. At the end of the film, a list is provided of the hundreds of cities that have had reported molestation scandals in the same ballpark as that in Boston in 2001. Hopefully it will push people to be more aware of the issue and take more action against perversion in religious institutions.  

Here is the link to the article around which the film is based, although it should be noted that some of the shocking details revealed in the film are ‘spoiled’ by the article: