Spotlight hits home screens in May

Directed by Tom McCarthy, Spotlight won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The good news if you missed it at the movies, is that it comes out on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital on May 4th.

So, why is it worth your attention? Well, it tells a riveting true story of a group of Boston Globe Journalists who, as part of the Spotlight team, exposed the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of incidents of pedophilia in Boston and ultimately the world. And it tells the tale brilliantly.

The revelation of truth is always shocking, especially in relation to a story involving the systematic cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church and McCarthy presents this story superbly, with an ensemble cast at his disposal.

The film opens with the scene of a policeman walking down the corridor of a Boston Police department in 1976 to reveal Father John Geoghan, a priest, has been arrested for molesting more than 80 young boys, only to be released to the Archdiocese in secret.

Fast forward to 2001 where we are introduced to Spotlight, an investigative journalism team lead by editor Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) and made up of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’arcy James) who are sent to research abuse allegations involving the Catholic Church.

It is revealed by one of the victims that the story was previously published in The Phoenix, a defunct newspaper with little-to-no readership resulting in a disabling inability to act. The exposition of truth depends on a reliable, well-read news source such as The Globe. Power and influence of news is dependent on audience reach and readership in order to raise awareness.

The Spotlight team interview more victims of abuse, taking statements where they speak about their childhood experiences in which they were troubled, vulnerable kids who were ‘preyed upon’ (as opposed to prayed upon) by priests who have a sense of omnipotence granted to them because of their status. One victim recalls the power imbalance between himself as a child and the priest who abused him, remembering how he regarded the abuser like god, ‘God speaks to you… how do you say no to God?’

There is no denying the truth words have and the respect afforded to them in a story as sensitive as this. The Spotlight team’s dedication to their story is testament to the impact of overwhelming injustice they uncover; they are tenacious and thorough in seeking the truth before publishing the horrifying allegations.

There are two competing ‘truths’ presented in this film; the unbiased truth of news journalism which seeks to present its readers with facts untainted by influence or reputation and the truth associated with religion and faith.

Spotlight manages to build momentum as it advances towards the climax, a rush of intense emotion equivalent to someone unexpectedly punching you in the face.

You feel your moral compass quiver as you ponder Mitchell Garabedian’s (Stanley Tucci) statement, ‘If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.’

The culture of secrecy which led to the cover-up of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is almost an unspoken doctrine, as high ranking priests such as Cardinal Law knew about the incidents of pedophilia yet chose to turn a blind eye.

‘Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around in the dark. Suddenly a light gets turned on, and there’s a fair share of blame to go around.’ Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) The Globe’s new editor, tells his team in the wake of the news of church sexual abuse.

The impact of this story for the journalists involved is not only professional but also personal; their views on religion change, their faith in community is shattered, and many of them stop believing or going to church as a consequence of hearing the truth of the scandal.

Spotlight isn’t just a story about journalists exposing a cover-up of a church sexual abuse, it’s about accountability, truth and the upheaval of all parties involved, even the media or in this case the Spotlight team who, being of journalistic integrity perform their jobs with utmost professionalism but still can’t help but be affected by the issue presented. A story like this forever changes public perception of organised religion and the scars it leaves upon its victims also cut deep within society.

Spotlight comes out on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital on May 4th. 



Review by Addy Fong with additional material from Bobby Townsend.