Taking Center Stage
There isn’t a good or bad time to release a film like Spotlight. Journalism shapes the issues discussed at a societal level, and, under the massively ambiguous term “the media,” seems to be largely blamed for many nationwide issues. Tom McCarthy’s film covers The Boston Globe’s investigative reporting of the Massachusetts Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, remaining as objective about its source material as a journalist ideally should. A film like Spotlight could and should (and in this case, does) highlight the utmost importance journalism (and more importantly, the handling of journalism) wields. A film like this is important.
In the early 2000s, Boston’s Globes investigative team Spotlight began digging for leads in a child sexual abuse case from a Catholic church. The team (here portrayed by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Brian d’Arcy James) uncovered evidence for almost 90 child abuse charges in Boston alone. They had to dig deep for that number – any prior documentation was swept under the rug by legal or journalistic powers to prevent any knowledge of the scandal.
The Spotlight team fought countless battles in order to release their series of over 600 articles documenting the victims, and the determination is portrayed masterfully through the cast. The screenplay (penned by McCarthy and Josh Singer) offers very little to distract from the main story, as does the film’s production – shots are typically straightforward and there’s little to no music in most scenes, presenting a clean (if at times dry) picture.
The screenplay’s biggest triumph, though, is remaining truthful to its subjects, and the audience. The Spotlight team had received tips about the scandal years prior and failed to act on it. As the investigation continues, many obstacles arise that postpone progress. Ruffalo’s performance (he portrays Michael Rezendes) perfectly carries the weight of the film’s hefty themes – he questions whether it’s safe to continue postponing the investigation, if that means leaving the public uninformed and endangered.
The film is a clear example of the art it champions – objectivity. One gets the sense very little in the picture is “Hollywood-ized” from the true story. Instead, it portrays journalism for what it is – a responsibility to the public, and one that encounters many gray areas between what is moral and what is serving of the public. It beautifully presents an argument for a conversation that must be had, and is always happening.