Monday, 23 May 2016
For a movie dealing with real events and real people, Spotlight is fairly unique. This is not a movie trying to glorify its heroes or add fizzle to events; instead it tells its story straight, imperfections and what nots, letting the story pave the way. And what a story this is.
By now we all know the Catholic Church had decades, if not centuries, of covert but frequent sexual abuse. It's just that, up until recently (too recently: Spotlight takes place some 15 years ago) the extent of abuse and coverup was unimaginable. It's sort of like someone telling you the NSA/GCHQ listens in on calls and emails while also sweeping all call data; if you were to claim that is the case before the Snowden revelations, you'd immediately find yourself labelled a lunatic. After Snowden you're just a realist.
Our story takes place at the investigative journalism team of The Boston Globe, a team called Spotlight. Its leader (Michael Keaton) is tasked by the paper's new editor (Liev Schrieber) to look into a report of a case of sexual abuse, given there is a bit of a buzz coming in from the Church's direction. There is hesitation; Boston is very Catholic, and at least according to Spotlight (I wasn't there to check in person) holds its Catholicism in high regard. Perhaps this new Jewish editor is on some personal vendetta? Regardless, the Spotlight team (including Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) starts investigating. We know what they are going to find.
So, yes, Spotlight tells its story extremely well. It is a long movie but it never, ever, bores or feels overlong. Credit is therefore due to, among others, our fine crew of actors that go for the authentic look and feel rather than the glamorous.
Most of all, though, credit has to be given to the moviemakers for letting the story do the talking. A significant part of Spotlight is dedicated to the fact everyone knew what's going on, to one extent or another, yet everyone felt too intimidated to offend the city's sacred institutions to do something about it (again the similarities to the Snowden case are striking).
I find that question of personal responsibility to extend from the movie's 2001 setting all the way to contemporary Australia: our government is funding pastors at state schools with hundreds of millions of dollars. Parents, on their side, regard Catholic schools as the cheaper alternative to private schools, therefore preferring to send their kids there. How does that work given the very firm, research derived, figure that specifies 6% of all Catholic priests have been engaging in sexual abuse? How stupid are we when we send our kids straight at them and let them into our schools?
Overall: I consider the "personal historical documentary" style of Spotlight a very effective way to both tell a story and push its messages through. 4 out of 5 very solid crabs.