Spotlight Review: Shining a light on the sins of the past | SWITCH.




By Jess Fenton
24th January 2016

Corruption, child molestations and coverups within the Catholic Church are far too familiar these days. Whenever a new case arises, no matter where in the world, our hearts break a little once again and we become consumed with questions many fear to ask: How many more? How much longer can this go on? How can they keep getting away with this?

Back in 2001, The Boston Globe's Spotlight investigative team are assigned the story of a pedophile priest and the lawyer that claims the Archbishop of Boston has known about him for years and done nothing to stop it. Following this story all the way down the rabbit hole, this team of four journalists (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d'Arcy James) uncover an endemic pattern among Catholic priests that produces a laundry list of perpetrators in Boston alone, and the Archdiocese that covered it up. Boston is a majority Catholic city. The church controls everything, so taking them on is not only extremely difficult but dangerous. The Spotlight team put their lives, careers, families and faith at risk to reveal to the world the painful yet necessary truth.


The Boston Globe and Spotlight took on the biggest and most powerful church in the world and won. What their reporting did shook the world to its core and finally brought to light something the church had buried for decades. This is not an easy story to tell, let alone an easy story to witness. In reality, this story took 12 months to crack, while on film it takes just 128 minutes; there's a lot to cover and not a lot of time in which to do it. Characters, story lines and other elements are clearly left on the cutting room floor or out of the script completely, which is why it bothered me so much that the film opens a lot of doors that they don't walk through. Too many questions are asked, and characters are introduced that never go further than an introduction. At the conclusion of the film there are just too many loose threads that leave me baffled as to why they were ever pulled. We're also told over and over the power and enormity of the Catholic church and how taking them on will produce consequences. We are told this, but never shown this. Save for a mildly intimidating conversation that falls on the deaf ears of its tenacious characters, "the big bad" has no real presence throughout the film, rather remaining an idea.

This is not an easy story to tell, let alone an easy story to witness.

Despite suffering from "too much versus too little" information syndrome, the film's faults never lie within its cast. The four lead investigators are supported by Stanley Tucci, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber and Billy Crudup. 'Spotlight' is filled with quiet moments of the journalists involved meticulously pouring over church directories and statements highlighting their all-consuming work, its loneliness and the secrecy surrounding the investigation.

As the title suggests, this is a film about the victims, the impact on the faithful, the Spotlight team and the emotional, moral and professional complications derived from their investigation, rather than a raging anti-Catholic church exposé. Engrossing to its last breath, the film's final slap to the soul comes when it reels off the list of implicated cities across the globe as a result of their story. It goes on for pages. The Spotlight story is an important story to tell, affecting every city and everyone regardless of faith.

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