MOVIE – Most of you must hear by now about the Catholic Church’s child molestation affairs, but it’s Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, which tells the fascinating true story of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that will shed light on how deeply rotten is one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institution. Liev Schreiber, Marc Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams are playing the journalists of Boston Globe editorial team investigating a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world.
Investigative journalism is perhaps the most sophisticated, complicated and time-consuming form of writing, recording tons of data, making interviews after interviews and putting the whole puzzle together to uncover a hidden affair. I studied investigative journalism at the University, and one of my exercises was to write a piece article. I have chosen a most simple story (an inauguration of a local tramway) and expected the whole process to go smoothly and calmly – only to discover a rotten affair of corrupt politicians and local landowners.
After making lots of interviews, one of the politicians kindly asked, if I value my life and those of my family member’s so I could consider stopping asking questions. And that was just a simple exercise for the university. You must imagine then, what’s the stake when a team of journalists goes against the Catholic Church to demask their dirty and disgusting secrets.
A spotlight on journalism
Director Tom McCarthy’s gripping behind-the-scenes tale of shoe-leather journalism – which plays out with the pacing and momentum of a thriller – recounts the Pulitzer-winning investigation by Boston Globe journalists who pulls back the veil on the Catholic Church child molestation scandal. Let’s not forget either, that “Spotlight” also arrives at a perfect moment in time. Never in history have newspapers been more endangered than they are now – both for those of online or printed form.
Thanks to “Spotlight,” we get a reminder of the vital importance of an independent, professional press to any community. The movie also reminds us, that, while journalism is an industry in transition – since printing presses are replaced by websites and the circulation numbers constrained by search engines, also advertising revenue toppled by Google Ads, still good, thoughtful journalism is not, and nor will it ever be, an old exercise.
Low-key, without too much Hollywood drama
Tom McCarthy is a modest, low-key director (‘The Visitor’, ‘The Station Agent’), and that style suits ‘Spotlight’, which is all muted colors, linear storytelling, and unobtrusive camerawork. It permits the actors to shine without showing off. Michael Keaton, who is still fresh from ‘Birdman’, makes another outstanding performance as Bostonian Robby Robinson who leads the paper’s investigative team. Liev Schreiber is not only the paper’s new editor, but also an outsider and Jewish in a truly Catholic city. Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams plays reporters on the front line, who are knocking on doors and digging out dusty documents. Ruffalo is perhaps the rowdiest presence: he’s nervy, energetic and prone to the odd outburst in a film otherwise mercifully lacking those moments.
All the Church’s men
The movie reminds you a lot ‘All The President’s Men’ substituting the Watergate scandal for the still enduring exposure to the horror of priestly pedophilia. Still, this movie is a lot more refined, also criticizing the media – as much as the church, the courts, the legal profession and other Boston institutions – in the systematic, wider cultural cover-up it describes.
While these journalists are upright, diligent and principled, the film doesn’t make them heroes and also doesn’t allow media mechanics to suppress the real nightmare of the real-life experiences of their story. There are just enough witnesses here and encounters with victims to make the human side of the story crystal clear without losing focus on the bigger picture of Catholic Church’s corruption. It’s that all-too-rare beast: a movie that’s both important and engrossing.