Spotlight – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

January 27, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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Spotlight could be seen as an elegy for a lost world.

A world where a big city newspaper, The Boston Globe, kept its Spotlight investigative team separate from the newsroom, when research was done by requesting a clipping file (“clips”) from the library and a time when households received a newspaper every day.

Maybe some of those things are still true, but it still felt like a blast from a not so distant past.

Based on a true story, the film opens in 2001 when Spotlight team reporter Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) is asked by new editor, Marty Baron (Lieve Schreiber). to look further into a previous story about a child molesting priest.

The team initially believed they were following a priest who had been moved around several times.  As they start digging, they uncover evidence of many more such priests and the scale of systematic sexual abuse of children turns out to be huge. In Boston the powerful Catholic Church had connections and cover-ups were easy to effect.

The work is more tedious than glamorous. It takes the journalists  months of painstaking sifting through records and checking of facts to get the full story. Interviewing  the adult victims, those willing to talk, gives insight into how priests took advantage of vulnerable children.

“A priest was like God. How could you say no to God?” says one victim.

Director Tom McCarthy (who also co-wrote the script with Josh Singer) has crafted a fine newsroom thriller with excellent performances from a cast who work as an ensemble, without grand gestures but with assurance. Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) make up the team. John Slattery plays editor Ben Bradlee Jr.

Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) is the protective lawyer for the abused whose trust needs to be earned before he will introduce Rezendes to his clients and Billy Crudup plays a slippery lawyer for the Church. The musical score is excellent.

The real life Spotlight team won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 for the story.

Stay for the credits to see the long list of places where child molesting priests have been found. As the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse here in Australia has shown, no organisation or religion is immune from those who would prey on children in their care.

This is enthralling viewing.

4.5/5   129mins Rated M Released 28 January
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Lieve Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci

Directed by Tom McCarthy

Written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer

Music by Howard Shore

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