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Spotlight

Updated: Jul 26

Released 2015. Director: Tom McCarthy

THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING TEAM AT THE BOSTON GLOBE started working on a potentially explosive story in the early days of 2000. Two years of laborious research and many interviews later, they uncovered the systemic cover-up in the city’s Catholic diocese on clerical child sexual abuse. If movies were the voice of moral fortitude, conscience and social responsibility, this is one of them.

Spotlight, in recounting the tireless dedication of the reporters involved, is an exceptional historical document of one of the most significant journalistic milestones – when newspaper reporting helps turn the tide on social change. Movies on journalists are rare, and the great ones are portraits of passion. Spotlight is about people working diligently, making hard decisions, doing painstaking research, labouring day and night as they live and breathe the stories they bury themselves in. The small team of four are relentless and thorough as they pore over details and speak to the lawyer who represents the victims, the assistant DA of the Catholic Church, victims and even some perpetrators.

Despite the subject matter, involving a very sensitive issue, people who feel hurt, angry, bewildered, defensive and frustrated, the movie remains non-sensational and non-judgemental. It is serious, calm, indignant, considered. Tom McCarthy maintains an even tone in his measured direction. The modest, low-key, empathetic performances from Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery is a tribute to hardworking journalists.

Spotlight is a story of moral courage, of “outsiders” daring to take on the establishment, of a new editor from Florida taking on the Boston powerbrokers, of small voiceless people taking on a mighty religious institution. Perhaps more importantly, the movie ends when the reporters finally have their stories published, and the years, even decades of cover-up is exposed. Crucially, there are no scenes of reaction from the public or the Catholic Church. It means Spotlight is not a movie concerned with crime and punishment, or a revenge tale that requires the villain defeated in sight. Spotlight is bigger than that.

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