Review: Spotlight

the cast of "spotlight"

Spotlight tells the story of The Boston Globe and its investigative team (Spotlight) that finally brought the story of child abuse in the Catholic Church national and global attention.

There has been so much anger and pain at the Catholic Church over this monstrous world-wide cover up of generations of young people traumatized and scarred forever by their most trusted patriarchal figureheads. It seems redundant to say this film will make you angry all over again. But it will.  

What we didn’t know before – the story the film tells – was the dedication, hard work, and courage of The Boston Globe reporters and editors in finally bringing this scandal out.

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton and John Slattery in a scene from "Spotlight."
Spotlight reporters played by Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton with John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr.

The absolutely amazing cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Jamey Sheridan, and several other excellent actors. Tom McCarthy directed.

Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes turned in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him. It was Ruffalo’s physicality of Rezendes – he was hunched, face pinched in a twisted grimace, always with his hands in his pockets. Sometimes the amount of pain he showed over what they were learning made me wonder if he wasn’t one of the victims himself, although the film never actually said that.

I was happy to see Sacha Pfeiffer (McAdams), the lone female reporter, playing a role equal to that of the men. She did a lot of leg work, running around the city talking to people, finding corroboration in interviews.

Stanley Tucci in Spotlight
Stanley Tucci in Spotlight

Stanley Tucci (with hair for a change) played Mitchell Garabedian, the overwhelmed and overworked lawyer who tried for years to get legal justice for the many victims he represented. He gave a great deal of help the Globe reporters.

Boston is a heavily Catholic town. The new editor at the Globe, Marty Baron (Schreiber) was expected to have a sit-down with Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) as one of his first duties on the job. The church ran the town, ran the justice system, ran the legal system, and ran the media.

The knowledge of what was happening was all around them, had been brought to The Globe before, had been written about and talked about for years before The Globe finally realized the extent of what was happening. They’d brushed things off, buried them, not noticed – just like everyone else in that most Catholic of towns.

Finally, they noticed. Finally, they documented how bad it was.

Spotlight received 6 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Both Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams are nominated for Best Supporting Role. Last weekend, Spotlight won the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

The most compelling and moving part of the film for me was at the end. There was screen after screen after screen crammed with the names of cities from all around the world where cases of abuse by priests were documented.

The enlightened with love to give are so few, and the hurt are so many.It’s well-know that abuse gets passed down through the generations. The abused become the abusers, become the drug-addicted, the alcoholic. Abuse changes your DNA. (see Transparent and Epigenetics) Add up all the damaged humans on the planet – damaged by the Catholic Church alone. I’m not talking damage by war or violence or racism, just the Catholic Church. It’s overwhelming. It’s a tsunami of human pain. Is there enough love to heal all that damage? The enlightened with love to give are so few, and the hurt are so many.

I’m remembering Tim Robbins fantastic performance in Mystic River, which came out in 2003, not long after the time this story broke in Boston. His character kept talking about “the wolf at the door” because what had happened to him at the hands of priests was too terrifying to remember with accuracy. He could only deal with it metaphorically, and not very well even then.

Spotlight Featurette

The country needs more teams like the Spotlight team, but sadly, that kind of journalism is fading away.

4 thoughts on “Review: Spotlight”

  1. I agree – this is one of the most impacting movies I have seen in recent times. Played very low key – no overt dramatic histrionics, letting the story itself be the drama – you don’t want to miss a moment of it. I’m glad the whole cast won an award – I would be hard pressed to single out a particular performance. Mark Ruffalo was outstanding, no dispute here, but his character was more of a hard punching guy than the others, so it was easier to key in on how wonderful the acting was. But I wouldn’t rule out a single other member of this cast. You felt that you were right there all the time while the story unfolds. Do NOT miss this movie – it’s spectacular.

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