“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.”
“Spotlight’, directed by Tom McCarthy in 2015, is an American movie set in the early 2000s in Boston. An investigative journalist unit uncovers the abuse of children by Catholic priests despite the resistance of the authorities and the church hierarchy. It features an ensemble cast including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Liev Schreiber as the Boston Globe journalists, and each performance is perfectly pitched towards authenticity. The obvious film to compare it to is ‘All the President’s Men’, a film that similarly generates tension and satisfaction from the nitty-gritty of journalistic investigation. Like the 1976 film, it focuses on conspiracy and appears at times to suggest threat to the characters but then undercutting this expectation. The real interest comes from the horror of the slowly accumulating stories of abuse, much like the bottomless pit of Nixon’s corruption. There is also a similar paradox in the way the journalists are presented as heroes and predatory antagonists at the same time. There is a conflict between the desire of the characters to uncover the truth to give a sense of closure to the victims, and their desire to uncover a story that will save their jobs. This tension is alleviated throughout the film by presenting the personal lives of the characters and the effect their investigations have on them. This is unlike the presentation of Woodward and Bernstein in ‘All the President’s Men’ who, throughout the film, transform from harassed victim to spies conducting almost Nixonian surveillance. This is the true power of both these films: they aren’t just about the scandal they uncover, but also about the moral ambiguity of their occupations.
Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s an important story about a scandal that shaped the Catholic Church and, ultimately, lead to the resignation of a Pope. It’s also an update of ‘All the President’s Men’, so that’s the obvious double bill.