Child abuse and molestation have always been considered especially heinous crimes. Pedophilia in our current society, is generally dubbed the unforgivable sin against humanity, and anyone (men primarily) who is even accused of it, will be made outcasts. But when members of the world’s most powerful religious institution become perpetrators of this outrage, the crime itself goes way beyond anything we call heinous.
As extremely sensitive as the subject is, “Spotlight” (the team of investigative reporters for the Boston Globe) casts a grisly shadow upon the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal which had been going on for years, going back to the late 40’s. It is intensely powerful as it is it morally shocking, with no proverbial holds barred in covering the sordid details of an unfortunately true story that would shake the world’s central foundations.
It’s 1974 at a Boston Massachusetts police station where a distraught divorced mother of four kids has experienced an unspeakable crime. It’s so unspeakable, that the case will not see any legal action. At least that’s what told to a young officer by his supervisor. Essentially it’s the old proverbial “Hush, hush.”
Fast forward to July 2001. Sort of a bittersweet celebration at the Boston Globe as veteran reporter Stewart (Martin O’Carrigan) is retiring to make way for a new editor. There’s the usual going away cake and obligatory speech making, but everyone seems to accept the fact that he is leaving for an even bigger paper than the Globe.
Stewart’s replacement hails from Florida. Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) headed up a newspaper there in Miami where he had to make sharp cuts in the staff. So naturally Spotlight’s top man Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his team are a bit fearful that he may do the same thing to them. Fortunately, the opposite is true. Not only does he keep Spotlight a-live, but persuades Robby and his crew (Sacha, Mike and Matt) to work on a child molestation case involving a priest spanning the last 30 years.
Authentic drama dealing with authentic misery, heartache, and horrific ordeals is poignantly, deeply conveyed by this ensemble cast. Reporters and victims alike. The latter especially. You simply cannot help but to be moved by the sheer mental distress these individuals endure while telling their stories of what happened to them. Robby and his team discover that this is not just any local story. And they’re careful to balance their way between a good story and empathy for all victims involved. They become determined to expose the truth. No matter how far it goes.
Of all of Robby’s team members, Mark Ruffalo’s Mike Rezendes is prob-ably the most aggressive. He’s a real pain to people like Stanley Tucci’s Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney who is handling many of the abuse cases. His persistence is dogged and comical, cornering the man in any way possible until he finally gets the interview, and information he wants. Ruffalo’s performance is so impeccable, you genuinely feel fearful for his character who may be trying too hard.
Batman alum Michael Keaton whose Oscar winning film “Birdman” has put him on top with an academy award for Best Actor, follows that critically acclaimed performance as Robby, the earnest, yet judicious ringleader of Spotlight. Age may have caught up since his days as millionaire Bruce Wayne, but like Moses, Keaton’s natural force is visibly not abated here. He’s duly supported by “Mean Girl” Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, and AMC Mad Men alumnus John Slattery, dealing with a high profile situation before and after the unprecedented tragedy of 9/11.
Tensions rise exponentially as our team edges ever so closer to the ultimate truth. There are all the usual friends who “politely” insist that Robby and his team stop pursuing something so embarrassing, it could cast a dark reflection on a city where the majority of the population is Catholic. From the prestigious annals of political power to those crestfallen victims too disconcerted to tell their stories, the pressure is exciting to watch as it is gut wrenching.
Substituting parts of Canada for Boston as well as lensing in Bean Town, production designer Stephen Carter, coupled with Black Mass cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi, render a chilling atmosphere among a particular group who are either unwilling or simply unable to convey their dreadful experiences. The screenplay by McCarthy and Josh Singer renders all the right dialogue.
For director Tom McCartthy, Spotilight was a sort of personal project, having to walk a tightrope regarding such a delicate issue, that involved se-curing various rights, acquiring the script from 2013’s list of Best Unpro-duced screenplays, and wondering of course what the good people of Bos-ton would think of the film when he showed it to them. Growing up Catholic, and having genuine first hand knowledge of this sad chapter in our history, McCarthy was the perfect helmer for a film that represents all of those broken victims who constantly need our prayers.