I’ve watched many films and the more I see, the more difficult that I would get to be entertained by formulaic rom-com movies – and similarly, the fewer punches that would hit me right in the gut when I see films tackling difficult subjects. Then I saw Spotlight – it’s been a while since I was hit right in the gut and even now, five hours after I saw the film, I still feel the anger, the desperation and the pain from the movie.
Spotlight chronicles the investigation done by the “Spotlight” team at The Boston Globe – headed by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) with Mark Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James). They handle difficult, investigative stories and when the new editor – Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) – came to town, he gave the Spotlight team a task to investigate children molestation within the Catholic church. This brought a lot of issues as Boston is a predominantly Catholic town and the influence of the church permeates everything within the city, including the legal system. From a single priest named John Geoghan, the team initially thought that there would only be as many as 13 priests who committed these acts. However, they soon discovered that there were as many as 87 priests who had allegedly molested children in their parishes. The film highlights that these molestation cases are not just lapses in judgment or just a few, isolated cases – but they indicate an entrenched cover-up system: a priest who committed sexual abuse would then be transferred elsewhere without being brought to justice. This is still happening today.
The direction by Thomas McCarthy exposes the scandal in a close to clinical manner, without veering too much to make this movie anti-Catholic church – or even, defending it. The inclusion of Sacha’s grandmother and her spiritual turmoil are examples of how this story is so sensitive. Present it thoughtlessly, you will have a hysteric story – but carefully tread each scene sensibly, you will have a powerful movie.
Without sharing too much about the story, Spotlight is a movie to see, to understand the frustration, the anguish and the hypocrisy that is currently still tolerated at church. It is no wonder that Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” in Matthew 18:6. It angered me as I watched the movie and heard some of the uncovered motives of the predators that some of them targeted boys, not because they preferred their own gender, but because of the shame and stigma that would be inflicted – and thus, the less likelihood for them to crow later on.
It is no wonder that people are turning away from church, an institution so dear to God that has unfortunately been affected and corrupted. Again, one of the best movies that I have seen this year, and is a major contender to be at the top of my personal list for 2015. It is by no means a perfect film – I was a tad annoyed by Ruffalo’s portrayal of Rezendes in his speech or mannerism (not having seen how the actual person speaks or behaves) – but, I measure the quality of the movie by how it affects me. This is one of the most affecting, gut-punching, powerful and sad film. Still in despair, five hours on.