JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Spotlight (Director: Tom McCarthy) - January 8, 2016


4.5 4.5
128 min.

Reviewed for the 2016 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala.
‘Bury it in Metro’

How very unsurprising that Tom McCarthy’s “true story” (he also co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer), necessarily, has its foundation on lies emanating from those who either preach the truth (Roman Catholic Church) or report it (The Boston Globe).

The proof of rampant abuse of young boys and girls did find its way into the Beantown newsroom as early as 1993, but rather than act, the story was purposely “buried” in the, apparently, seldom-read Metro section. In a remarkable coincidence, when the “Spotlight” team was ready to ferret out enough of the remaining evidence to publish the repugnant revelations that would indict Cardinal Law (Len Cariou playing the ironically named church leader with devilish coolness) for his duplicity in year after year of wilfull blindness, 9/11 reared its ugly head, becoming—necessarily—the only story editor Marty Baron (portrayed with measured calm by Liev Schreiber) wanted covered. That bold, brutal attack also led to the production’s most telling line: “Now we need the Church more than ever.” Like so many bullies and power-hungry institutions facing possible annihilation of their own making, an unrelated public distraction—even if thousands are killed, maimed or terrified—is as welcome as spring rain. Amen.

The Spotlight investigative team (led by Michael Keaton as editor-with-a-past Walter “Robby” Robinson along with main associates including Mark Ruffalo who decidedly won’t take any no for answer as reporter Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams as interviewer-with-a-heart Sacha Pfeiffer and Brian d’Arcy James playing Matt Carroll) collectively get the fire in their belly once realizing that dozens—not just a handful of perpetrators and victims—of “participants” make this story an epidemic of sexual, physical, moral and systemic abuse (notably keeping court documents under seal due to pressure from “on High” in the latter category).

As one victim—years later—admits, “It was very confusing to be introduced to sex like that.” Back then some would argue since this young man was gay, he probably wanted “it.” On the other side of the aisle, an abusive priest confesses that “I never got any pleasure.” OK, then: five Hail Marys and you’re off the hook.

Of course, this production is a docudrama, allowing the artistic trust to put words into everyone’s mouth then select and order the facts to suit their purpose.

But thank goodness they had the courage to let most chips fall where they may, painting a picture of despair of the hunters and their hapless prey. Punishments of various forms have been meted out against the actual abusers and their uppers, but how many innocent souls could have remained unsoiled if The Boston Globe had done its job when it first had the story? JWR

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