Turning the Spotlight on child abuse
“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
I don’t claim to be an expert on physical, verbal, sexual or any kind of abuse. By God’s grace, and thanks to my protective upbringing, I’ve never been a victim of abuse, so when I tell you that Spotlight resonated with me in some weird way, you may find it hard to believe. But it did. Tom McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated Spotlight hit me hard and I connected with it in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
It begins in 2001, just before the 9/11 era. The Boston Globe is losing some of its best journalists to retirement and rivals, and readership is dropping. Enter new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who reads a Globe column about a lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian (the brilliant Stanley Tucci), who says that a Cardinal Law (the Archbishop of Boston) kept mum even as one of his priests, John Geoghan, sexually abused children in and around Boston. Marty feels THIS is the story the Globe needs to follow up on.
So what does Marty Baron do? He turns to a crack team of four journalists in the Globe, named Spotlight. Led by the wise-cracking, no-nonsense Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), and ably supported by Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo — role of a lifetime), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), Spotlight is the Boston Globe team that takes up the difficult cases and digs deep to find the truth. Initially, everyone is hesitant to take on the church, including Editor Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery, in an extension to his role as Sterling on Mad Men). How everyone comes together to arrive at the truth and get justice for the victims is what Spotlight is about — even though the bigger piece of news, 9/11, almost overshadowed it.
It’s been a while that I’ve seen such a coherent, taut screenplay. There is no let-up at all, and the film focusses solely on the task at hand without meandering even one bit. Many Bollywood ‘real-life’ stories would do well to take cues from Spotlight’s screenplay (Airlift, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, are you listening?). It has deservedly been nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards (well done, Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer).
What is also deserving, is the nominations for Best Film, Best Director (take a bow Tom McCarthy), Best Actor AND Actress in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams). A person who I feel missed out was Howard Shore — his background score had that rare quality of staying in the background, yet elevating the film’s cinematic moments.
In the end, all I have to say is, this isn’t just your straightforward ‘based on a real life’ film. This is a film that takes a close, hard look at the investigation of the Spotlight team and its implications. There are moments that will fill you with rage and helplessness, and yet, at the end, you just want to stand up and applaud.
One of my favourite moments from the film is when Keaton confronts a lawyer (Billy Crudup as Eric MacLeish) about his role in covering up the sexual abuse, and he tells him “We’ve got two stories here: a story about a degenerate clergy and a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry. Which story do you want us to write, ’cause we’re writing one of them.”
Shine on, Spotlight. 10/10 for the most important movie of the year.