Arts Review, Movies


Spotlight featured image


Tom McCarthy, director and co-script w/Josh Singer
Starring: Mark Ruffalo (Michael Rezendes), Michael Keaton (Walter “Robby” Robinson), Rachel McAdams (Sacha Pfeiffer), Liev Schrieber (Marty Baron), John Slattery (Ben Bradlee, Jr.), Stanley Tucci (Mitchell Garabedian), Len Cariou (Cardinal Bernard Law)

A good old fashioned newspaper film is a surprisingly nice thing to see in an age when print journalism is battling hard to remain relevant. Spotlight brings us back to the days when investigative reporting made headlines and sold newspapers. Back in 2001, times were simpler: we still read books and newspapers in print editions and the Catholic Church was an institution beyond reproach.

Things are different now.


Spotlight dramatizes the tale of how a dedicated group of Boston Globe journalists broke the scandalous tale of systemic sexual abuse being performed by Catholic priests, with the tacit support of their religious hierarchy. Just as it seems odd for us now to watch the intricate work of newspaper reporters following all the rules in order to ethically break a case, it is just as shocking to realise that less than two decades ago the entire story of the Catholic Church’s complicity in suppressing information about pederasty in parishes across the globe was not commonly known.

Things are, indeed, different now.

Directed with almost documentary gravitas by Tom McCarthy, Spotlight emphasizes the teamwork of a group of well trained reporters operating under the command of editor “Robbie” Robinson. Michael Keaton is excellent as Robinson, an old pro and lifetime Bostonian who has to work with old friends and foes to ultimately reveal the truth about the priests’ abuses. He’s joined by a crew of old pro actors: Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo as Robbie’s best reporters; Liev Schrieber as the new Jewish editor-in-chief Marty Baron; John Slattery as Globe projects editor Ben Bradlee, Jr. and Stanley Tucci as outspoken attorney Mitchell Garabedian. Ruffalo and Tucci rattle more cages in their occasionally histrionic roles but, really, all the actors perform their parts impeccably.

There’s been lots of buzz around Spotlight. You can expect plenty of Oscar nominations, particularly for the cast. And the film is clearly worthwhile. But something about Spotlight feels dialed in to me. Perhaps it’s because the scandal is so well known at this point—and that newspaper stories seem so 20th century to us now. Certainly, Spotlight deserves to be a hit but there’s nothing in it that will astonish a well informed audience member. And that’s a shame.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

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