Viennale 2015 – Day 6: Spotlight

USA 2015
Written by Tom McCarthy
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Watched on 27.10.2015

“Spotlight” is an ensemble piece that chronicles the exposure of multiple cases of child abuse – and their subsequent cover-up – within the Catholic Church in Boston by a team of investigative journalists from the Boston Globe. Based on true events, it’s as much a plea for print journalism as it is an important contemporary document that gives background information, context and life to 2002’s headline.

Unfortunately, the fact that there are many cases of child abuse within the Catholic Church – worldwide – isn’t really news; we also had our share of cases here in Austria. Which is probably why I found the systematic cover-up even more shocking than those cases themselves. To see how far-reaching it is, how pretty much everyone knew what was going on, but how, due to its power, the Catholic Church in Boston still managed to keep it under wraps for so long. There were also some revelations – like a rehabilitation program for such priests, or the fact how they simply get transferred to another parish, where they again get the chance to prey on children – that I found quite shocking. I also loved that “Spotlight” doesn’t simply grant absolution to the journalists – even the ones who ultimately lifted the lid on it. They all had heard rumors and reports of multiple cases, but simply decided not to follow up. How many cases could have been avoided, if they would have acted sooner, instead of turning a blind eye? I loved that the Spotlight-team isn’t simply exonerated from that, and that they’re not the clear-cut heroes of this film. Nevertheless, “Spotlight” leaves no doubt that when they finally looked into it, the team of the Boston Globe did a splendid job, and they definitely deserve credit for that – and for going ahead with it, despite the pressure from the Church, friends, family etc.

They are brought to life by an impressive and immensely talented ensemble that includes Mark Ruffalo (who once again threatens to steal the show), Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James and Michael Keaton. They are all great in this, and each and every one of them get their moment to shine. There were a couple of especially strong moments, like with Mike and Sacha on the porch, or when her grandmother finally reads their report. What you should keep in mind, though, before rushing into the cinema, is that while it’s advertised as a “tense investigative dramatic-thriller”, John Grisham this ain’t. It’s rather a quiet, slow-built drama than a hard-hitting thriller. There’s very little tension, and of course, since it’s based on true events, we also already know how it will ultimately end. It’s not flashy and not over-dramatized, but offers a rather factual, sober look behind the scenes of this particular Boston Globe article. Overall, “Spotlight” is an important and well-made movie that puts the spotlight on the shocking years-long cover-up of cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Boston, and the team of investigative journalists that finally brought it to light – which makes it a must-see for everyone who’s even mildly interested in journalism and/or said scandal.


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