Child molestation in the Catholic Church has been one of the most significant and controversial topics of the past decade and a half. The Roman Catholic clergy isn’t the main focus in Spotlight, however. Rather, director Tom McCarthy’s extraordinary film shines its spotlight on the investigative journalists that revealed these ongoing acts of carnal abuse. It of course touches base on themes concerning religion and sexual predators. Above all else, though, the film shows just how vital freedom of the press is in our society. On that basis, Spotlight may be the best movie of its kind since All the President’s Men.
At the dawn of the 21st century, The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team was assigned to investigate a couple accusations of rape in the local Catholic Archdiocese. As the journalists dig deeper, though, they find that this story is bigger than ever imagined. More and more grown men and women come forward, confessing that priests raped them as children. Soon enough, Spotlight learns that these heinous acts aren’t just limited to Boston. This sort of thing has been happening all over the world for years and the Catholic Church has been covering it up.
Spotlight brings together one of the most marvelous acting ensembles of the year with everybody working off each other in perfect unison. The standout performances come from Michael Keaton as Walter Robinson, the team’s driven leader, and Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, a reporter who only becomes more passionate about the story as the layers are peeled back. Rachel McAdams does some of her finest work as Sacha Pfeiffer, whose faith is tested upon making these appalling discovers. Brian d’Arcy rounds out the Spotlight team as Matt Carroll, who realizes that child molesters may be living in his own neighbor. The names just keep coming with Live Schreiber as an ambitious editor, John Slattery as Spotlight’s levelheaded supervisor, and Stanley Tucci as a lawyer who may hold the key to blowing the lid off this scandal.
Watching these journalists uncover the facts is nothing short of captivating, leading to all sorts of eye-opening and jaw-dropping places. They interview numerous victims of rape and even encounter a priest who admits to sexual assault as if it’s commonplace. Every time it looks like the Spotlight team has reached the tip of the iceberg, it turns out that there’s even more to the story. What’s especially shocking about these molestation cases isn’t just that they were happening right under our noses for decades, but that it took so long for somebody to expose them to the public. Such injustice would still likely be overlooked today if it weren’t for Spotlight.
There’s no denying that the Spotlight team ultimately delivered some of the most important articles in the history of print media. McCarthy and co-screenwriter Josh Singer wisely never glorify them, however. Instead, they’re depicted as real people who are all simply trying to do their job and make a difference. In going up against Goliath, Spotlight demonstrated that the truth is the most powerful thing in the world. The first step towards unraveling the truth, however, is asking difficult questions.