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Spotlight (Review)

The subject of the abuses of children by Catholic priests is not an isolated one. In Australia, a Royal Commission has been hearing from victims, and I believe some of those who covered up the abuse. There have been cases emerging all over the world following the events dramatised in Spotlight and it's no surprise to learn some of it has happened here in New Zealand.

It is a fascinating story and when I heard there was a film being released on the events surrounding the newspaper investigation of it, of course I wanted to see it.

Spotlight is the story of a team of reporters with the Boston Globe who investigated and wrote the story which blew the top off the cover up in 2001.

The newspaper business is a fickle one at best. It's very true when they say that you are only as good as your last story. It is also true that most of the top people in the media are only out to make money, ie sell newspapers. However, a very few really do care about making a difference and it felt to me like the Spotlight team were the latter.

This was the kind of journalism I wanted to get into when I was younger, and in many ways, I still wish I was there. Unfortunately, New Zealand is a small place and while we do have our fair share of scandals, it's a highly competitive area of journalism and you have to be damn good at what you do. Sadly, this is not the case for me, not because I'm a bad writer, but because I don't have the thick skin that it takes to be able to fight for the story.

Back to the movie. This was a look at the process behind the investigation. I've heard it said it is in the same mould as All The President's Men, which was about Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate. I haven't seen that one, although I do want to, so I'm in no position to judge it based on those merits.

I will say this. The real reporters had a tough job ahead of them investigating what was the ultimate whistleblow. They were up against the Catholic Church, which, in my view, is far too powerful an organisation.

The crux of the story is this. The team were asked by their new editor-in-chief to dig into allegations of abuse by a priest. There had been a story years earlier, and a lawyer was looking into other cases. It was explained that the statute of limitations on the abuse was long passed and the victims probably had no legal recourse. Once the Spotlight team became involved, they initially uncovered about 90 priests, and goodness knows how many victims.

Since I haven't read anything about the actual story, I can't say whether what happens in the movie is an accurate representation. What I do feel is that this issue was handled about as sensitively as it could be, given the subject. They don't give details in the movie of what the victims went through, but it's fairly well implied.

Michael Keaton plays Robby (Walter Robinson) with sensitivity and intelligence. I've watched a few of his movies, Beetlejuice being one of them and while he is definitely talented, he is one of those actors who can sometimes rub you up the wrong way. However, in this film, he is outstanding. It takes guts to play a character involved in uncovering one of the biggest scandals in recent history and he does it with aplomb.

Mark Ruffalo plays Mike, a guy who once believed in the church but now doesn't know what to think. Mark has always been a great character actor and this is no exception. I could feel the reporter's passion for the story, even as the various revelations and the stumbling blocks became a source of frustration.

Rachel McAdams is another fine addition to the cast. She shows maturity and intelligence in her ability to take on a character who has to listen to a victim's story with empathy. Had I been in the position of that reporter, I would have broken down. She also played her horror and disgust well when talking to one of the abusers.

There are other cast members I could name, but it is little wonder these guys got top billing because they did a wonderful job.

I'm sure other people will criticise the movie, but I have to wonder if some critics do so because they are uncomfortable with the fact that here is this huge religious organisation that orchestrated a cover-up. Who knows? My opinion? This is a brilliant movie. It doesn't sensationalise the subject matter, which is one thing I do criticise the media for.

Only one quibble, but it's a small one. Sometimes the Boston accents made it difficult to understand the dialogue. I still got the gist of it though.

Should you go see it? If you're interested in journalism that set out to make a difference, yes.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 14th, 2016 04:29 pm (UTC)
In spite of the big name actors, I hadn't even heard of this movie. Your review makes it sound very interesting, though, and I might have to give it a try if it comes on on Netflix, of something.
Feb. 14th, 2016 07:36 pm (UTC)
It is well worth the accolades it is getting, that's for sure. I mean, it's intense, but then again, it's a very intense subject, and so highly topical.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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