It is 2001 and a new editor at The Boston Globe asks its special investigations team, Spotlight, to look into claims that a Catholic priest had abused children and been protected by the Archbishop. What starts as a column hidden in the middle of the paper develops into months of painstaking investigating as the four members of Spotlight uncover a conspiracy larger than anyone feared and one which the entire city, including themselves, had turned a blind eye to.
Despite the fact that the film is over two hours of mostly talking about a particularly grim subject Spotlight manages to be a gripping and non exploitative watch. The two hours are filled with gruelling persistence as the journalists scour through records, crossmatch printed databases, and follow up leads. Surprisingly, and to my huge relief, no time is spent lingering on the either the young victims or their persecutors apart from. At no point did I have to look away from the screen to shield my eyes from the exploitative recreation of an all too real person’s suffering and no flashbacks were in sight. Spotlight‘s writer/director Tom McCarthy instead decides that the film should celebrate the hard work of the investigation and in doing so condemn the horrors that it uncovered.
Spotlight is a no frills affair; the camera is unobtrusive and the film is lit in a bright uncinematic way. The film eschews any bells and whistles confident in the fact that the story itself is engrossing enough and the machinations of the plot inherently interesting enough to sustain your interest. Carrying the story are an excellent ensemble cast giving a variety of performances ranging from the superbly understated Liev Schreiber to Mark Ruffalo who fidgets his way through the film and gives the mostly noticeably actorly performance; hence securing himself some awards. While Ruffalo is far from being bad it is the less showy, and less applauded, roles in the film that reinforce its essential authenticity and authority.
Spotlight is not particularly fun but it not a film you need to avoid either. There is little light relief in a film about large-scale child abuse but I do not hesitate to recommend the film. While the territory is unpleasant the film does its best not to exploit the subject or those involved and instead creates a suspenseful and very watchable procedural drama in which journalists do their jobs well. Spotlight is not out to punish the viewers but spreads its important message in a palatable way but without sugar coating or shying away.
Spotlight is a devastating story meticulously told. This is a film that needs to be seen.