Forgive You, Fathers, For You Have Sinned (Film Review: “Spotlight”)

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The searing and sensational movie that chronicled how a small group of Boston Globe investigative reporters took down the Catholic Church. Now more timely than ever, revisiting Spotlight.

 

SnapShot Plot

Though it may seem a mainstream choice for Norma’s Streaming Picks, I can’t think of a more apt selection than the 2015 Best Picture winner, Spotlight, for its ‘ripped from the headlines’ timeliness.  As the sexual abuse allegations about the American Catholic clergy have re-emerged, with sickening statistics that point to a predatory pandemic across the Church, it’s fitting that we look back to the journalists who broke this scandal back in 2002.

Like the great movies about whistle-blowing Journalism, such as All The President’s Men and last year’s excellent The Post (about the publication of The Pentagon  Papers, which blew the lid off the Administration’s propaganda campaign on The War in Vietnam), Spotlight is a newspaper procedural, a movie that shows the meticulous and diligent reporting that goes into a groundbreaking revelation with sonic cultural, political, and – in this case – spiritual reverberations that extend back into history and forward into the future.

Starring an absolutely sensational ensemble group of actors, the movie’s title refers to a small department of investigative reporters at The Boston Globe, who in 2001 and 2002 wrote a series of reports that uncovered the systemic cover-up of child abuse by the Catholic Church in Boston. The team is portrayed by: Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr., Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll, and Gene Amoroso as Steve Kurkjian.

Their extensive and exhaustive work earned the Spotlight team the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism. The movie is the story of how they conducted their investigation and the toll it took on not only their own but countless victims’ personal lives.

 

 

Parting Shot

The timeliness of Spotlight right now is twofold. While it is certainly relevant given the newly exposed sexual abuse scandals making headlines today, the film’s ‘in the moment’ impact also exists on another level altogether. It’s the significance of Journalism and a Free Press on the fabric of any society. Despite how carefully this film tried to depict the pressures, risks, and responsibilities associated with breaking the biggest story wide open, it’s more than that. Its about the impact doing so would have on the Church’s local and indeed, global reputation. . . and breaking it in a city as predominantly Irish Catholic as Boston was a whole other issue itself.

We are living in a peculiar moment right now in which the very ethos and raison d’etre of a Free Press is being put to the test. The decisions to publish scandalous, shocking and even potentially criminal stories at the highest levels come at a price. The issues of anonymity and protection of sources are now examined more critically than ever before. So I suppose my personal takeaway from a movie like Spotlight has to do with those values inherent in our free society. . . the values of trust and credibility, in both our leaders and in those we count on to tell us the truth.

Spotlight is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwdCIpbTN5g

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