Inspired by actual events, Spotlight dramatically documents the efforts of the investigative reporting team of the Boston Globe to expose epidemic levels of child abuse within the Catholic Church and the subsequent systematic cover up by high ranking church officials.
Spotlight is a truly Oscar worthy drama built around a tragic real life story of investigative reporters uncovering a horrible truth. The film laudably handles the more sensitive aspects of its subject matter with care and compassion, avoiding the obvious dangers of delving into the most graphic events for sensational shock value. The focus of the film is neither the acts of abuse nor the vilification of those responsible. Instead the film serves as both a proud tribute to the value of a determined independent press and as a poignant examination of the devastating impact of abuse on the lives of those affected.
Spotlight has an all-star cast lead by Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci and Michael Keaton. The collected acting efforts of this fine ensemble gives the film a subtly but earnest credibility. Guided by the direct involvement of the actual people being depicted the cast breath dramatic life into surprisingly recent events, but without resorting to sensationalism or flamboyance.
Oscar nominated Mark Rufflo and Stanley Tucci in particular deserves praise for their portrayal as the dogged reporter and forlorn lawyer fighting to expose the full scope of the scandal and suffering. The emotional urgency of Ruffalo’s performance contrasted with Tucci’s note perfect display of cynical patience, perfectly illustrates the motivations and deep frustrations of those involved.
The film serves as a timely reminder of the actual value of the media, at a time when people have seemingly lost as much faith in that institution as they have in the church. The film also paints a complex picture of a tragedy which destroyed lives in the most insidious ways and the important journey taken by those who ultimately brought an end to it.
Given the nature of the real life events being depicted the film will perhaps be especially uncomfortable viewing for those who have had their live touched either by the crime of abuse or by the comfort of religious institutions. Indeed at times the film openly acknowledges that the scandal dealt with has a specific emotional and spiritual impact for all members of the Catholic faith. The issue of distinguishing between religious convictions and the very human failings of the institutions which represents them is an unsettling conflict no matter how well the film itself deals with it.
The Ugly Truth:
Spotlight handles heavy hearted subject matter in a sensitive and powerful way, delivering a dramatic and important story which rewards serious viewing. The film is rightly a major awards contender thanks to a sophisticated script and accomplished performances by a host of familiar stars. Audiences shouldn’t be intimidated by the film’s subject matter and will take much from its poignant messages.
Review by Russell Nelson