Film shines ‘Spotlight’ on Church expose

Spotlight is a new American drama film starring Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.


Spotlight is a new American drama film starring Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams.

Ethan Sapienza, Staff Writer

Newspapers are dying, but the journalism industry is attempting to evolve in a far more web-based world. Thus far, the growing pains have been hefty, with many print publications disappearing since the dawn of the century.

Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight” is a vindication of journalism. It tells the courageous story of Boston Globe journalists who exposed the Catholic Church for repeatedly covering up instances of sexual abuse against children. The name comes from their unit, Spotlight, which specialized in lengthy investigations. Even in 2001, when the film takes place, the emergence of the Internet age began to eliminate the financial means for investigative units like Spotlight.

Both the investigation and film are necessary pieces in the media milieu. Without the breadth of time allotted to the steadfast Spotlight team, the proper story may have failed to been told in the film.

“Spotlight” is expertly made, taking a quiet and observational tone much like its characters, who are portrayed by an all-star cast including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and John Slattery. There will likely be debate about which cast member should be Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, as the rounded talent works together like cogs in a machine. The emotional heights and depths as the investigation progresses are achieved through wonderful chemistry, bouncing from Ruffalo’s dogged, slump-shouldered determination to McAdams’ honest, moral care to Slattery’s comical and thoughtful commentary.

Keaton is possibly the star of the show. He’s mastered an everyman quality that makes him relatable, while offering illuminating emotional transcendence. His performance is soaked with straightforward decency and unabashed self-awareness. He knows when to deliver knockout punches and when to provide support in the background.

If not Keaton, then Schreiber may be deserving of the most praise. Schreiber’s almost hysterical under-acting somehow propels “Spotlight” to its incredible second and third act. He hardly moves a muscle, yet his presence and mumbled voice carry the film.

The story itself is too righteous not to be engrossing, and those portraying the survivors, play a major part in honoring true crimes that were committed. Phil Saviano (Neal Huff), a leader of a survivor’s coalition, begins his account like a school presentation. It’s so well rehearsed it’s heartbreaking, and it makes one wonder of how many had to hear his tale and ignore it before he ended up spurring on
the team.

“Spotlight” isn’t without some minor flaws; the beginning is disorganized, featuring annoying, out-of-place music. But from there, the film gets swept up in its absorbing story about journalism’s role in
social change.

“Spotlight” opened on Nov. 6, and is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

A version of this article appeared in the Nov. 9 print edition. Email Ethan Sapienza at [email protected].