As viewers, we are magnetized towards films that construe stories of relevance, stories that have been truly, in all its senses lived by real people, stories that touches us right in the heart, encapsulates and compels us to look back and see the reality through a different perspective, one that we were not aware of or one we did not know existed. Transliterating those stories into a movie while being absolutely honest to the content and lived experiences is daunting and intimidating in itself but very few movies have been able to do all of the above and ‘Spotlight’ is definitely one of the few.
‘Spotlight’ is a 2015 American biographical drama film directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer. The film follows an American daily newspaper, The Boston Globe’s ‘Spotlight’ team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. The film features an ensemble cast starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci to name a few. Critically acclaimed with a winning of Academy Award for Best Picture along with Best Original Screenplay to boast of – Spotlight, is a film that should not be missed!
The film unfolds a systemic pattern through which the Catholic Church swept the abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests under the rug, after a series of investigation by the ‘Spotlight’ team. But the film is not a portrayal of or an exposition of what the church is and is not, it is about the essence of ‘right and honest’ journalism. In the words of John Singer himself, “This story isn’t about exposing the Catholic Church. We were not on some mission to rattle people’s faith. In fact, Tom came from a Catholic family. The motive was to tell the story accurately while showing the power of newsroom – something that’s largely disappeared today. This story is important. Journalism is important, and there is a deeper message in the story.”
The team of four – Spotlight, as the name suggests puts a spotlight on an issue, problem that have been hushed for far too long through thorough and relentless investigation that have affected the lives of the people of Boston. As the investigation progresses, the issue ceases to be just a Boston problem but a larger one affecting hundreds and thousands of lives, worldwide. Spotlight works as a team and as ethical journalists, interacting with the survivors, lawyers and a perpetrator himself. The important aspect of this story/film is the decision by the editor and the team to not disclose anything to the public by pointing fingers at an individual or a group of individuals or provide bits and pieces of the story, rather focuses on the larger picture – the system, which is the essence of an investigative journalism.
Tom McCarthy, with a large part of the movie set in the newsroom has been able to bring the conversation of true journalism into the film. The narrative is excellent as it punches right at the heart of the issue without any added drama. An amazing star cast who have portrayed their character in its true form, ‘Spotlight’ highlights the true nature of newspaper/journalistic drama through its characters, settings and the series of investigation so perfectly woven to the understanding and liking of the audiences. ‘Spotlight’ also does not crown the investigative journalists as heroes of a story rather as people who are merely doing their work while staying true to the stories of the victims and survivors. The film definitely resonates with a lot of people and has stirred the conversation of morality and honest journalism into the right direction.