Spotlight Review

Director Tom McCarthy is no stranger to inner workings of newspapers. Playing fabulist reporter Scott Templeton in the final season of HBO’s The Wire, the director clearly has a fondness for the hustle and bustle of a newsroom. McCarthy returns to the world of print media in Spotlight, a ‘based on actual events’ movie about the Boston Globe journalists who exposed the long-standing issue of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

A humbler Newsroom, Spotlight has no inclination to deal with the sanctity of journalism and opts for very little pomp and circumstance. Rather than portraying Walter Robinsons’ (Michael Keaton) crack team of reporters as the ultimate underdog, fighting for their first amendment rights against an archaic and morally bankrupt institution. Spotlight remains grounded in the struggle to ensure that victim’s voices are heard. The plots moral compass shifts the further down the rabbit hole Spotlight’s reports go. By the films end the emphasis is no longer on why the molestation of children occurred?  But the equally tragic question how could it go undetected for so long, a burden that the Boston Globe itself has to bare.  As one character poignantly states if it takes a village to raise a child it take a village to ruin one.

Spotlight conducts itself with an air of quite dignity; although numerous victims are forced to relieve their traumatising experiences it is never explicitly show on screen. Instead we see the psychological and physical repercussions, the needle bruises on a man’s arm, the nervousness of another as he waits to be interviewed. The absence of such imagery makes the film all the more powerful leaving the horrors to fester in the viewer’s imagination. This is Spotlight’s unspoken mantra; McCarthy says so much with so little giving glances into the lives of both the victims and journalists bringing more depth to his characters. Michael’s (Mark Ruffalo) often referred to but never seen wife suggests a troubled marriage, while Matt (Brain d’Arcy) has to deal these issues a lot closer to home.

The ensemble cast accentuates what is an already fascinating plot into an emotional struggle of exposing the truth in the face of adversity. Surprisingly there is no clear standout performance.  Everyone from Stanley Tucci’s reclusive lawyer Mitchell Garabedian to newly appointed editor of the Boston Globe Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) gives a noteworthy performance. It is one of those rare occasions where everyone involved is brings out the best in each other. Naturally the two reporters that get the most onscreen time are the de-facto Oscar nominees. Spending most of his time hunched over a note pad or sprinting from one location to the next, Mark Ruffalo is given the most monologuing to do, automatically earning him a supporting actor nomination. While Rachael McAdams’ Sacha shows her range in a number of heart to heart moments with numerous victims as well as her colleges.

Overall Spotlight is an excellent film, it is a powerful story that digs deep into the audiences moral centre. Even with its dower themes and narrative Spotlight is neither depressing nor graphic, rather as its name suggests it shines a (spot)light on a significant and shocking story in the most dignified way possible. Seldom does a film take such a delicate approach to such a taboo subject. Just like a real journalist McCarthy makes the story, not his characters the centre of the film, giving Spotlight a level of uniqueness that few films will be able to replicate.