“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
This line best encapsulates the theme of Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, which matter of factly tells the riveting true story of the Boston Globe’s slow uncovering of the Catholic Church priest sex abuse scandal. It also tells a small town coverup tale and that “small town” is Boston, where some of the reporters run in the same circles of the church hierarchy and people who protect them.
Spotlight refers to a four person investigative reporting team at the Globe led by Robby (Michael Keaton). The rest of the gang is played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d’Arcy James. They are worried about their ability to take their time on stories and do things their way when new editor Marty (Liev Schrieber) is brought in from Miami. Their fear is confirmed not in the way they expect – Marty wants them to delve even deeper into their stories and he doesn’t fret about hometown repercussions. And the story he wants them to spotlight is allegations of priests molesting children over many decades and the victims who are living with their past experiences.
The reporters soon eventually uncover a plot with a scope previously unimaginable. Like that line of dialogue spoken by Stanley Tucci’s dedicated and overwhelmed attorney character, many in Boston’s village knew what was occurring. Yet few of them felt it was their responsibility to blow the whistle. Those who did often found it fell on deaf ears. This extends to the Globe as some of their personnel saw traces of the horror to be revealed later. McCarthy’s film admiringly recounts the process that journalists go through to uncover the story, but it doesn’t totally absolve some of them for their failure to act sooner. In fact, some of the principals on the other side involved wonder what took them so long.
Spotlight is filled with a sterling cast with superb performances down the line. It’s led by Keaton’s hometown boy who seems to know everyone and wants to do the right thing. Schrieber impresses in his role as the outsider who isn’t interested in a one day article. He and the team from Spotlight soon find their story is widespread and terrifying. It drives the point home that in these circumstances, often it’s assumed that someone else will say something and soon it’s a village of people not doing so or not listening. Spotlight expertly tells us how these reporters got to the point where silence was no longer acceptable and the noise you’ll hear at the end of this story will feel like powerful vindication.
***1/2 (out of four)