Spotlight, based on the real life investigation involving the Catholic Church’s molestation scandal, has been the
favorite to win Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, and for good reason. Thanks to a superbly written screenplay, small, focused performances, and a steady hand at the direction, Spotlight is one of the most quietly powerful experiences you’ll have with a film this year.
The film follows the Spotlight branch of The Boston Globe newspaper as they
investigate survivors’ stories of how their priests sexually abused them as children. As the film goes on, the team builds their case until they are ultimately able to uncover an unimaginable number of scandals surrounding Boston and, eventually, the rest of the world.
Going into this movie, I wasn’t expecting to be as moved by it as I turned out to be. Being only 8 or 9 when the scandal broke, I’ve lived most of my life knowing what has gone on with the Catholic Church and how multiple lives have been ruined by this. But the great thing about this film is the way it easily transports you back to a time where it was all still an unknown.
Spotlight handles this sensitive story so well that with every heartbreaking interview with the victims, every shocking reveal, you feel like you’re learning all this information for the first time along with the journalists. There are many scenes that leave you feeling horrible about what happened, but there are also some poignant moments as well. The most memorable involves Rachel McAdams’ character, Sasha Pfeiffer, interviewing one of the victims. In the discussion the victim simply says that he was molested by the priest and means to end it there. But then McAdams tells him that he can’t sanitize the information: he has to give her the graphic details, no matter how horrific, or people won’t really care. He complies . This scene encapsulates the movie: the audience has known about this story for years, but to really get us to see its enormity , we have to hear the horrible details . McAdams and the rest of this cast, including Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber, are fantastic in their roles. These are very reserved performances, and their characters feel so real that the movie is able to tell its story without big, Oscar-y performances getting in the way and overshadowing it. Tom McCarthy is to thank for that decision. Who would have thought that the director of Adam Sandler’s latest catastrophe The Cobbler would have been capable of pulling a movie like this off? But thanks to his steady hand at the direction and a great screenplay, (co-written with Josh Singer), they keep this story, along with the actors, small and focused. This movie is very lean and has a great pace, never getting bogged down in the information that it burns through. They managed to make a two-hour movie about journalists just gathering sources and working in their office riveting and emotional, earning a triumphant ending even though we all knew how it would wrap up.
Besides the fact that this may win Best Picture, this movie needs to be seen. It’s important in reminding us about an ugly part of history that ruined many lives, but it also commemorates
the men and women that shared this story with the rest of the world. While there may have been other movies that entertained me more this year, this is the most important and impactful, making Spotlight well worth Best Picture because of that.