One of the most critically acclained film of the year, Spotlight is so fascinating to watch that I missed almost all the music besides two Baroque chamber pieces by Handel and Bach about halfway through the movie when the drama takes place at the Catholic Charities Gala where there is a lot of dancing and wonderful music in the background.
Based on actual events, the story is about how The Boston Globe investigated and uncovered the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Dozens of paedophile priests had escaped arrest and were shuffled to another parish where they preyed on more children.
The city of Boston is steeped in the culture of Catholicism where 53% of its population are Catholics; therefore the team needs to be more discreet than usual and be very careful about this case. In finding a way to make the paper more essential to readers and to ensure that the number of subscribers do not dwindle, a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is hired. He sees a pattern in the crimes and asks Robbie, aka Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), head of Spotlight, to follow up.
Spotlight is a four-person investigative team that is always working on the controversial, and once settled on a project, they would spend a year or more investigatinig. The other three journalists are played by Mark Buffalo (who is nominated for the Oscar’s Best Supporting Actor for his role here, whcih I think he fully deserves), Rachel McAdams (nominated for the Best Supporting Actress award) and John Slattery.
“When you are a poor kid from a poor family and a priest pays attention to you, that’s a big deal”, is usually how the abuse starts, “until you feel trapped because he has groomed you.” This is not just physical abuse but also spiritual abuse. The child could be offered an ice cream, and because it’s a priest, the kid just follows. Or it could be something funny at first, like playing strip poker, and things went on from there; specifically, the kid would be molested by the priest. All these really mess the kids up, and it is very confusing for them, even when they become adults. This is a phenomenal problem and a complicated case as it involves not just a handful, or a dirty dozen, but close to ninety priests (or 6% of the 1500 priests in Boston).
“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one,” so says one character in the movie. The church seems to be aware that “only 50% of its clergy is celibate” but the church is an institution and Faith is eternal, therefore to separate the two is tricky. Something is amiss in the system. There is a lot of pressure for the victims to keep quiet from family, friends and other parishioners; “everybody knows but nobody wants to cuff a priest,” says a uniformed character. “The church controls everything, EVERYTHING.”
It is a nightmare, so “sometimes it’s easy to forget we spend time stumbling in the dark,” but this this kind of story is why investigative journalists do what they do. This investigation, where each character is unique, is carried out as though it is and action movie. This is one reason why it is so engrossing and has also been nomintated for the Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Direcxtor and Best Filim Editing awards.