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Spotlight

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Starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo

The title refers to the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, four journalists dedicated to doing investigative pieces. Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) leads them. Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) do the bulk of the legwork. They work separate from the newsroom, in their own drab, windowless basement office. Rezendes is on the phone shaking down a source when Robby walks in, and says he’s going to meet with the Globe’s new editor-in-chief, fresh from a stint at The Miami Herald. They wonder if he’ll be in tune with the work they do. They worry about job cuts. It’s 2001. Turns out, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) challenges the Spotlight crew to look into allegations of child molestation by one Catholic priest. In fact, that one allegation became dozens in Boston alone, and many more worldwide. The veil was lifted on a significant psychosexual plague, covered up outside the courts by Catholic leaders and lawyers willing to capitalise. The tables were turned on the Catholic Church, a pillar of morality revealed to be rotten at its core. But this story stays focused on Boston. It’s a local story reported by locals the reporters are all lapsed or casual Catholics with roots in the city. They understand the difficulties they face in exposing one of Boston’s cornerstone institutions as corrupt. If that isn’t ironic enough for you, the figurehead was Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (Len Cariou). Cardinal Law. A leader who believed the institution’s sanctimonious status was more important than the laws of common decency , not to mention the laws of the land, and therefore the well-being of hundreds of children, many of whom led deeply troubled lives, if they didn’t commit suicide.

The film wisely keeps emotional responses and outrage to a simmer. Director Tom McCarthy crafts the story as a plea for a logical response and he doesn’t shy away from heavily dramatic, graphic testimonials from abuse survivors, who answer difficult questions posed by reporters who don’t allow their empathy to eclipse the importance of the big picture. These moments are gut wrenching, but necessary.

The ensemble work in this film is exceptional especially absent John Slattery as a Globe news editor, and Stanley Tucci, as an eccentric lawyer who brings abuse survivors’ cases to court. They all function for the greater good of creating a superlative film and expose. Interestingly Ballarat gets a mention at the end of the film.

Rated MA 8 out of 10