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Spotlight Movie Review

by Erin O’Donnell

The Boston Globe exposed priests in Boston and around the world have sexually abused children from broken homes, and the large institution of the Catholic Church buried it. The investigative reporting team, Spotlight brought that story to light, and it’s now being featured as a critically acclaimed motion picture.

The movie “Spotlight,” directed by Tom McCarthy, is a true story of how The Boston Globe uncovers the mass amounts of sexually abused of children by 90 priests and how the Catholic Church covered it up by reassigning and relocating priests in 2001. The movie is electrifying, thrilling and nothing short of realistic.

The Globes new Editor Marty Baron, (Liev Schreiber), is a pair of fresh eyes and sees the importance of the sex abuse scandal. He tells Spotlight to drop what they’re currently working on to dig up facts. Baron said to the team, “We need to focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Practice and policy. Show me the church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn’t have to face charges. Show me they put those same priests back into parishes time and time again.”

In a New York Times movie review by A. O. Scott stated, “Everything in this movie works, which is only fitting, since its vision of heroism involves showing up in the morning and — whether inspired by bosses or in spite of them — doing the job.”

One scene in particular of children in the church choir singing “Silent Night” played over with scenes of the reporters interviewing weeping abuse victims and typing away, is one that sends chills through the body. This movie correctly tells this story of this mass cover-up and the absolute heart-wrenching horror of what was hidden for so long.

Visually, the movie does not aim for Hollywood glamour, but newsroom realism. The men in khaki pants, baggy button-up shirts, stacks of newspapers crammed in every corner of the room, bulky PC computers and even the movie’s portrayal of the 9/11 reporting, all scream what it meant to be a journalist in 2001. As Scott puts it, the movie doesn’t focus on nostalgia. It instead highlights the reporting while dipping into the love lives of the characters.

Not since “All the Presidents Men,” by Alan J. Pakula has a movie portrayed journalists as detectives that get personally involved. The reporters in “Spotlight” feel a sense that they cannot believe that this was hidden for so long, how many lives were affected and realize how it could have been them.

As the movie progresses, accused priests are uncovered. The Catholic Church covered up their secret, Scott puts it as a sense of “moral horror” is realized. The list of priests goes from nine to 90  as journalists go door to door looking for victims, priests or anyone to confirm their list. One chilling scene when Sasha Pfeiffer, (Rachel McAdams), knocks on a door and an older man, a priest, answers. He admits to abusing little boys, but says he got no pleasure in it so he didn’t see any harm, that he himself was raped. This scene of intense escalation further shows the chaotic systematic madness of how no one has done anything to prevent this horror.

Most of all, “Spotlight” shows the important work that journalists do. We don’t need less of them, but more. The importance of strong local and investigative reporting will never diminish. “Spotlight” gives audiences a taste of what true journalism is, down to the fluorescent-lighted newsrooms to the endless cups of coffee. Scott captured the essence correctly, “Journalists on film are usually portrayed as idealists or cynics, crusaders or parasites. The reality is much grayer, and more than just about any other film I can think of, ‘Spotlight’ gets it right.”

“Spotlight” is now currently playing in all theaters.

photo from Flickr