Child molestation! There, that should get your attention. It’s awards season, and you know what that means: it’s time for all the hard-hitting films that no one will be privy to until the academy gives them a golden bloke. And nothing quite screams ‘I want an Oscar!’ like a true story adaptation about the Catholic Church covering up child sex abuse. Happy New Year, everyone.
Spotlight is based on the real-life investigative journalists who, in 2001, uncovered the systemic concealment of almost 100 paedophile priests in the Boston area. They later discovered it had been happening all over the U.S. at an alarming rate for many years. It’s a family film.
Director and Writer, Tom McCarthy, has previously been involved in films such as Pixels, 2012, Meet The Fockers and Pixar’s Up, but Spotlight is his most exhilarating project yet. We get to see reporters standing around tables looking perturbed, while other scenes show them doing exciting journalistic things, like sifting through old newspaper clippings and using the photocopier. They answer the phones sometimes too.
Creating a realistic newsroom means there’s little to distract from the drama of this shocking true story. It plods along at a practical pace, but it’s never dull. I got angry when a retired member of the clergy openly admitted to molesting children as if it was perfectly normal, and listening to the stories of some of the victims made me want to have a shower. “How do you say no to God?” says one of them – one of the many wince-worthy moments in the film. It’s like an extra awkward episode of The Office, but less funny because of all the predatory priests.
The cast are all very convincing at looking disturbed. Michael Keaton plays head of the Spotlight team, Walter Robinson, and apparently studied the real person’s mannerisms over dinner. He did the same with a falcon for Birdman. Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams look the most distressed as Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer. And Liev Schreiber is the gruff-voiced, Boston Globe editor, Marty Barton. He’s the most sedate of the bunch, approaching the atrocities like an action hero too cool to look back at explosions.
This isn’t like Dennis Villeneuve’s Prisoners where we get to see the abuse. That’d be horrid. It’s more matter of fact, letting the heft of the story creep you out by itself. By the time it’s over, you’ll have a very quotable case study to refer to when religion is the topic of debate during Sunday lunch. I’m off for a bath.
Potential Oscar and BAFTA winner – Best Picture
Words by Chris Edwards
Written for Live for Films