When John Michael McDonagh made Calvary, a film about a good priest, he was hoping to get ahead of the wave of anti-church films coming our way. Well, now the wave has crashed with Spotlight, a film about the child sex abuse scandal in Boston. The story focuses on the Boston Globe newspaper and its Spotlight team, a foursome of investigative reporters, as they take on church and state in their quest to reveal the truth.
No one wants to watch a film about child sex abuse. No one needs that misery in their lives. Life is hard enough Monday to Friday without Saturday night trips to the cinema becoming gloomy and depressing. So, it’s worth saying, Spotlight isn’t about the horrors of what happened, it’s not about shoving it in yer face for shock results.
It’s a story of the small guys taking on the big guys, a story of underdogs fighting for what’s right. Spotlight is destined to be called this generation’s All The President’s Men and completely deserves that title.
However, the film and its director Tom McCarthy (behind the excellent The Station Agent and the awful The Cobbler) don’t overly glorify the reporters. While it is a story of the powers of journalism, Spotlight doesn’t romanticize the journalistic process. The film is dealing with a serious subject and deals with it in a reverential way.
Also, if you heighten things too much, chances are people will begin to doubt how true a true story this is. So for a film that is an Oscar frontrunner, there’s no Oscar scenes, no overly dramatic and passionate moments where people punch walls and shout and cry. It’s honest. It’s real.
It’s the perfect marriage of actors and script. Both the story being told and the actors telling it are so precisely in tune to the tone that some scenes, which action-wise may not feature anything but Michael Keaton playing golf, can be imbued with such an importance.
Without saying much else, it’s a film that needs to be watched, a story that needs to be told. In an era where films need to be flashy to get our attention, Spotlight is enjoyably traditional in its making and richly rewarding in its delivery.