Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Spotlight is a great film, but it should have hit harder

By s. Wednesday, January 6, 2016 , , , , , , , ,
In early 2002, the Boston Globe covered the criminal prosecutions of five Roman Catholic priests in an article that won an uncontested Pulitzer Prize. The issue of child rape and sexual assault of Roman Catholic children became a national scandal The coverage of these cases encouraged others to come forward with allegations of abuse, resulting in more lawsuits and criminal cases. Spotlight tells the story of reporters who researched and wrote the article.

I live in a country that is mostly Catholic. We have crosses hanging in school classrooms. Children get two-hour mandatory classes of religion (just Catholic religion) a week in public schools. We have priests agitating for specific political parties in churches. And we also have had situations were kids were abused by priests. I have long maintained that Catholic Church as an institution is criminal. That institution, over the course of centuries killed thousands if not millions of people. And they have ruined lives of so many others.
What does surprise me is that to this day they have followers. Knowing what we know about them, how can anyone still go to Church? How can anyone still think that God has anything to do with this place? God has checked out of there a long, long time ago. These people would have women who were raped have no choice but to give birth. They would argue and take action into bringing kids on this Earth even though the child is ill, deformed and will die soon. Even though it is not their business, even though to every person with the slightest bit of conscience it is inhuman. Look at their treatment of women. Look at their treatment of other cultures. And they dare to judge everyone, acting as if they have the moral high ground. And for years now we heard of stories about priests abusing children.

It's repulsive. It makes me wanna vomit.

These are just my general thoughts on the matter. What I consider a failure in Spotlight is that it will not cause thoughts like these in a person who didn't have them before. It does not have the power to anger or to shock to the extent it should anger and shock. These men are abusing and raping children. Children. After seeing a movie about it you should be grabbing torches and hedge cutters.
Brokeback Mountain angered me. North Country angered me. Spotlight has merely saddened me and made me shake my head. There is nothing wrong with the subtle and journalistic approach the movie is taking, but I cannot remember any other movie being made about this subject. So since Spotlight is the first movie made about this (I know there were documentaries, Doubt years ago, I know that subplot in Calvary, but this is the first movie about this getting so much attention), don't they have the responsibility to make people feel the heinousness of the crimes of the Institution that still commits those crimes? That has influence over people and governments? They sure as hell do.

I am not saying that this diminishes the film. But I wish hit harder. Because things need to be out there that hit hard, that make people see. That hit them right between the eyes and make them see. It's insane that in this day and age, after everything that has happened it's not beyond the realm of possibility that in my country - under the current government - there will be attendance lists in Catholic churches. To be perfectly honest I think the only reason this movie has a release date here is because the current government is too busy, at least at the moment, to bother with whatever movies are in cinemas
There is one fantastic, passionate scene where Mark Ruffalo's character blows up in fury at everyone not doing anything about children getting hurt. It's the film's finest moment and perhaps because it's a sole moment of anger erupting so fiercely it hits so hard. The problem is that your heart should be trembling at the sight of this horror not just in this scene, but throughout the entire movie. The people in real world are acting like they are anesthetized. Children are getting raped and people still go to Church. The priests responsible are moved and essentially promoted and people are doing nothing about it. Subtle approach is truly not a way to go, not even when it comes to the movies. Just as newspapers, movies about subject like this have responsibility.

For what it is, which is the tale of the reporters who uncover the scandal of nearly 90 priests abusing children just in Boston area Spotlight is very skillfully done. It has a terrific pace, best ensemble work of 2015 and brilliant script that keeps you glued to the screen. And I suppose even the movie where those crimes are a secondary plot is better than a movie from which people won't find out about something horrific happening in the world right now.
While the collective efforts of actors are terrific, no one really stands out except maybe Michael Keaton who delivers a beautifully subtle work. Every single actor in this movie does great work, if slightly subdued one other than Ruffalo and uncredited Richard Jenkins, who isn't even on screen yet still manages to steal the show. He plays  the voice of ex-priest and psychiatrist Richard Sipe who provided the spotlight team with crucial statistics. The scene were he informs the team that according to his findings 90 priests in Boston abuse children is incredibly well done.

What Sipe says how the Church is of men and he doesn't go to the mass anymore because his faith is in the Eternal, is something that people should be doing. They need to stop giving the power to the corrupt. They can believe in whatever they want to believe, but truly where is the correlation between the faith in God and the Institution of Church which protects the criminals?
What the movie does well is show the tip of the iceberg - there are different circumstances to the victims' stories - in one case the abuse occurs because the priest is the first person to tell the child it's OK to be gay. In another it occurs because the family of the victim treats priest like God, so the victim is too afraid to speak up. By showing that Spotlight shows what disgusting, predatory, heartless monsters these priests are.

Another thing that the movie accomplishes well is showing the lengths to which the Church goes to cover the scandals up - clandestine settlements, keeping things off the courts. You can tell me 'not all priests molest children'. But this film and that story clearly show that there are many, many priests who knew and did nothing or even actively tried to cover things up. Hopefully people who get to see this movie will be so outraged about the hypocrisy and the indecency, the shamelessness, the heinousness of those 'cover up' practices that this alone will make a difference in how they see this institution.

In the film's shattering ending we get to see the list of places where the children were abused by priests. But given everything the movie told us, how many of these cases were kept off the books, away from the court of law...we know that in actuality there have been so many more instances of abuse, molestation, rapes.

And even one instance is one too many.

Spotlight, 94/100 
(128 min, 2015)
Plot: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.
Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers: Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams


  1. Great review. I think the reason the film felt like it didn't hit harder was because when this actually happened, it did. It was all over the news. There were a lot of rightfully angry people, so I kind of like that this film is mostly subdued in a way.

    Ruffalo was the standout for me. He was just so passionate.

    Religion is getting to be a tricky thing. I still believe in God, but I'd probably call myself spiritual over religious these days. I'd rather keep it personal, because like you said, organized religion has its major problems.

    1. Yeah but here I personally never heard of this particular story. I mean I know things like that happened in America but I never heard of this Boston scandal before.

  2. I guess my country never really accepted religion.. we are considered the pagans in Europe and I'm happy with that notion. The fact that such a topic was done in such a tamed way, makes me sad and glad at the same time. It was a slow build, and the shock at the end, the number of those finds, in the after credits, was what made me shake my head in disbelief. A very clever movie.. in many ways. Ruffalo was my favorite as well, he was just so different to what I'm used to see him.

    1. I seen Ruffalo being this passionate and worked up in a lot of roles but I really liked his work here and was grateful at least one of these reporters showed the outraged in such a loud, unrestrained way

  3. I think this movie would infuriate me endlessly, but I think I'm still interested in seeing it regardless.

    Each of my parents were raised Catholic, and therefore backed WAY off of us kids. I basically have ZERO religion myself, personally .

    The fact that this kind of thing could happen systemically is reprehensible. Hopefully the film fans the flames a bit more, as the uproar seems to have totally faded (at best).

    1. It's definitely worth seeing. Very good script and very good performances

      I just find it so insane that these days it's treated as a common thing. Every single one of those cases should provoke the highest levels of outrage

  4. That scene with Mark Ruffalo was incredible. It just showed the sense of passion in him and why you kind of want to be on his side and go out there to nail these bastards.

    1. That was a great scene, one of the best in 2015

  5. I just wasn't moved by this film at all. Maybe it was too subtle, but it just didn't hit me as hard as I think it should have. I'm not sure what it could have done more though?

    1. They could have focused on the victims more or have more scenes like that Ruffalo one

  6. I liked the film though, made it to no.10 in my best movies of the year list. But yeah, I do get what you're saying. I felt like McCarthy just wanted to reveal, he didn't want to place judgements nor stylize his film to the point where the cold truth didn't hit as hard. Nicely written!

  7. Terrific review. Yeah, it's great filmmaking and features a fine ensemble, but it could've have gone further. Still, it's easily one of 2015's best films.