Movie Review: Spotlight

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MV5BMjIyOTM5OTIzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkzODE2NjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_“You want to sue the Catholic Church?”

That was the implication when the Boston Globe newspaper would like to file a motion to unseal court documents containing allegations of child sexual abuse cases by pedophile priests.  And that is, if the paper trails exist at all.

The film takes us back to 2001 for a behind-the-scene look at “Spotlight, ” a team of professional journalists working tirelessly to uncover the truth, unravel and assemble information piece by piece, yielding chilling revelations that rock one of the oldest and most esteemed institutions, the Catholic Church.  Their year-long investigative work and news story won them a Pulitzer award in 2003.

The tenacious team, led by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), consists of three reporters – Mike  Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “The Avengers“). Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams, “Sherlock Holmes“) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) – reporting to deputy managing editor Ben Bradley Jr. (John Slattery) and the new managing editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber, “Pawn Sacrifice,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine“).

Nobody wants to touch the topic.  The victims are typically vulnerable kids from broken homes, poor families or bad neighborhood, preyed upon by a trusted figure they believe might be sent from God.  Filled with shame and guilt, and discouraged by others, they are reluctant to come forward.  And when they do, its tales are told behind closed doors, in hushed whispers or agonizing tears.  And then covered up, swept under a maze of red tapes and under-the-table settlements with lawyers (Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup).  Many of those kids, robbed of their innocence, turn to bottles, needles or suicides.

Some, perhaps, refuse to believe that evils lurk behind the holy masks.  53% of the readers of the newspaper are Catholic and the influential religion does a lot of charity work for the city.  But everyone knew.  It’s a horrific, systematic pattern hidden by a broad network of  religious figures, law enforcement authorities and the legal system at the highest level.  The priestly predators, instead of facing justice, are simply moved from one parish to another, with the full knowledge of the Archbishop and Cardinal (Len Cariou).

This is more than chasing a story,  making a mark or generating money for the publication.  While it’s an explosive expose, it is not sensationalized.  This is a hard-hitting storytelling, conducted with sensibility and acted with remarkable realism.  The film also shows the power of the press.  That when a focus of a story is carefully selected, thoroughly investigated, responsibly corroborated, persistently followed through and timed well for publishing can make a far-reaching and lasting difference.  Parts of the in-depth investigation takes place in the shadow of 9/11 and timing crosses over Christmas.  There’s a talk about when the scandalous news should break.

Directed by Tom McCarthy and jointly written with Josh Singer, “Spotlight” not only demonstrates investigative journalism at its finest, but perhaps more importantly, it shines a spotlight on a previously untouchable story.  As the credit rolls, scrolling through a massive list of  cases will send shiver down your spine.

Steve Jobs” is one of the best films of 2015.  “Spotlight,” not only one of the best, but quite possibly the most important film of the year.

Copyright (c) 2015.  Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

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