It takes a village to raise them. It takes a village to abuse them. That’s the truth of it.
Spotlight takes a quiet, minimal approach to its subject matter and this is probably for the best. It’s the story of the four reporters who uncovered a shocking web of secrecy surrounding decades of child molestation by priests in the Boston area. The subject matter is shocking and disturbing enough without hysterics. The film often plays like a documentary and there are a couple of brutal scenes near the start of the film where the camera just rests on adults who were raped by priests as children and just lets them spin out their horrifying, painful stories. The film is smart enough to take the time to do this with two victims; then, as the pace picks up and the victims seem to be around every corner, the viewer is able to extrapolate the details. The ensemble is one of the best I’ve seen this year, quiet as they are. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams & Brian d’Arcy James as the four reporters at the heart of the story; Liev Schreiber, better than he’s been in years, as the new editor; John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr.; Stanley Tucci, stealing every possible scene, as an impassioned lawyer; Jamey Sheridan as an ethically compromised lawyer for the church. It’s fascinating to see even actors as idiosyncratic and voluble as Ruffalo and Keaton subsume themselves with interior, minimal performances. The script is a masterpiece, slowly unfurling the devastating story with a methodical implacability. The movie refuses to pause because of your pain or your anger as a viewer; and it refuses to stop unfolding, revealing some new vile detail at every turn, long after you think you’ve surely heard the worst. It’s a deep film, a patient one, a film for adults about serious issues. I feel like it’s a masterpiece; I feel like it’s bettered even the granddaddy of journalistic procedurals, All the President’s Men; I feel like we’ll still be examining this film in a seventy-five years. I feel like this movie this is perfect; I feel like this story had to be told and it’s been told about as well as it could be here. And by the time the film goes to black and runs a list of cities where children have been raped by priests, you’ll be deeply sad, you’ll be reeling from shock, you’ll be incredibly angry. And those will not even be the barest hint of the emotions experienced by the victims of this monstrous, decades-long, institutionalized campaign of predation and crime. Let this movie haunt you. It will; and it should. 4 stars.
tl;dr – minimal, quiet film follows reporters uncovering story of child molestation by priests; a brilliant ensemble and a devastating script combine to create an emotionally gutting masterpiece. 4 stars.