Spotlight Review: Best Picture Winner [Spoiler Free]

Directed by Tom McCarthy

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

When the news first broke of the mass sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, I was six years old. Needless to say the story didn’t have an impact on me. But I still wasn’t aware of it when I was 13, or really when I was 15 and in fact I think I was 17 when I first grasped the proper extent of what had happened. A brief internet search will show you how little the Church has done to apologise and the extent of the inaction at the time this was all going on. One of the first things I thought at the end of Spotlight was how the Church really didn’t receive any proper punishment for the cover up. Now when Catholicism is brought up people mention how much they like the Pope, or Stephen Colbert, or some perverse idea of a Catholic Schoolgirl. And the fact is that the Catholic Church kinda got away with global sexual abuse on a mass scale and I am really not okay with it.

Neither is Spotlight, a mix between a love poem to investigative journalism and a punch to the stomach. Based on true events in Boston around  the early 2000’s Spotlight tells the story of an investigative journalism team who stumble across the truth of the sexual abuse committed by priests in Boston, and the cover up committed by the Church. It follows the team right from the initial investigation of one priest to the printing of an article exposing 87 priests as sexual abusers.

For the first film on this blog I may have picked one of the hardest to watch, but I mean that in the best way possible. It tricks you in its pacing, starting out as an ode to investigative journalism and its processes before starting a slow build up to the trauma of what was happening. Suddenly you’re halfway through and what happened really hits you and your stomach drops and you can’t really be anything other than angry till the end of the film. Even after that the emotion stays with you and personally that is the sign of  good film.

Firstly let’s just say – Mark Ruffalo, otherwise known as possibly my second biggest celebrity crush (my heart will never leave you Oscar Isaac), is fantastic. Definitely deserving the supporting actor nomination, as did all the cast. One of the great things about these performances is that nothing ever felt purposefully dark, the subject matter certainly was, yet these were still normal people, who could still display joy, tiredness and shock in what they were facing. They were journalists dealing with dark subject matter but with the exception of some excellent moments they never made it personal to them. Basically it was really great to see real people dealing with this rather than messengers of angst (There’s a reason why I struggle with Police dramas).

Other noteworthy performances include Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber who bring an element of control to almost everything they do, especially Schreiber who to be frank felt like he was on a whole other level throughout the entire film, he just stole your attention in every single scene. As well as the performances from the victims, whose testimonies and stories were that much more appalling when you realised they were probably real life stories.

Also Stanley Tucci is in this film??? Did you know? I didn’t know, Liz didn’t know and let me tell you there is nothing better than a surprise Tucci. Go watch it, do it for him and his majestic toupee.

We all know that we here at two girls one blog love feminism, so folks let me put on my FeminElly hat and talk about the lack of women in this film and the deeper more perturbing fact that for once I did not care as much as I would have in other films, (I have stuff to say about the Revenant and The Big Short, don’t you worry). Rachel McAdams’ character was perfectly fine, with some stand out moments, but overall she didn’t have the draw in that Mark Ruffalo had when he was on screen. She had nice moments though and Liz was very excited about the fact that she was wearing normal person clothes that were practical to work with. The complaints that I do have were that the victim narrative was very focused on the male victims and didn’t really mention the mass amount of female victims as well. Also, too many white people and despite the fact that I adore Mark Ruffalo, passing him off as Portuguese is mighty shady.

One thing that this film knew how to do was handle a montage sequence, like, I am a fan of a good montage, whether of the cheesy musical kind, or the intense crop of beautiful shots and movements like spotlight had. Again it reads like an ode to investigative journalism, with sequences focusing on groups of librarians finding information, or the interviews with victims, or dear god the beautiful printing press sequence, my kingdom for every film to have a well shot printing press sequence.

The cinematography was also on point throughout the entire film, gorgeous wide shots emphasising the urban community within Boston and some particularly impressive tracking shots, because everyone loves a good tracking shot.

Overall guys, go watch this. The storytelling is on a whole other level of emotionally manipulative, dragging the audience in every direction before leaving you with a sense of awe and frustration that I haven’t felt since the overwhelming white guilt of Twelve Years A Slave. The cast are superb echoing the curiosity, frustration and disgust that I imagine was felt by everyone in the community. Spotlight in my opinion fully deserved its win this year and I hope it sends out a message that we need investigative journalism, we need people to look into this kind of thing, otherwise who knows what kind of tragedy will go unnoticed for who knows how many years?

Overall Score: 8/10

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