Friday, 4 March 2016

[Minor Spoilers]

Tough but important viewing. 

It’s maybe a cliche that the ‘worthy’ films dealing with Big Issues get trotted out at this time of year, but the story Spotlight deals with is truly horrifying, particularly because it’s so recent and because the system that allowed it to happen is still very much in place (as confirmed by the final revelation that the Cardinal who covered up the abuses in Boston was later promoted to a post in Vatican City).

But Tom McCarthy’s film treats this horrifying subject very astutely, giving voices to the victims, as the Spotlight reporters themselves did, and never veering into sensationalism. The process of reporting is made tense through the many obstacles thrown in the team’s way and the pace with which the scale of the thing they’re investigating constantly rises, becoming more shocking with each revelation.

I’ve seen a post going around Twitter criticising McCarthy and Josh Singer's script because we hardly get to know the characters, not seeing much of their personal lives. Rubbish. That’s not what this film is about at all. These are characters for whom the case they’re on is everything, and it struck me that whenever we do see their domestic lives, it’s because their work is intruding into it - Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) realising a priest ‘treatment house’ is around the corner from his family, Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) no longer being comfortable going to church with her grandmother - all acting as a reminder that this scandal happened so close to home for so many people.

No, we do get to know these characters as truthseekers devoted to their cause, and character is revealed through their interactions in the office and with interviewees. All the cast are thoroughly convincing, from the little quirks (Mark Ruffalo’s very particular walk with his thumbs through the belt loops of his jeans) to the moments of intensity - the scene where Ruffalo's Mike Rezendes gets angry at Robby (Michael Keaton) for holding back on the story is not one to be forgotten - “It was two children! It could have been me or you!".

But ultimately, the main thing I took from Spotlight was not my admiration for the team of journalists, or for the actors portraying them, but shock at the sheer scale of the abuse.

Those ending cards. Fuck.


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