English Film Review

Spotlight

Based on actual events, the film looks at the expose done by the Spotlight team (Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James) of the Boston Globe on child molestation by Catholic priests and its subsequent cover up by the Archdiocese.

Spotlight proves yet again how simple, straightforward yet understated storytelling tells us relevant human stories most effectively. There is nothing flashy in its narration, it stays close to its characters and while admittedly, pretty verbose, it engages us thoroughly – both, as a humane drama and as an investigative film – without sensationalizing  the issue. In that sense, the film, a subtle yet nuanced and powerful newsroom drama, is akin to the ethics of responsible journalism that we see in the film. Neither is it exploitative of its volatile material nor are the journalists made out to be super heroes – they are shown to be normal people who did their jobs honestly and to the best of their ability. In fact, at one point, the publication of the story is put off even at the risk of another newspaper breaking it to make sure all the facts are unassailable.

The film works best as an investigation that has us hooked as we come to know as much as the reporters do and our shock at the revelations, when they come, mirrors theirs. It stays faithful to the process of the Spotlight team building up their story piece by piece, from investigating a single guilty priest to realizing the number could be close to 90! This, by following the principles of good old fashioned journalism as we know it, by backing their story with facts. At the same time, the film retains its humane quality never once making us forget the victims. It is a tour-de-force example of candid storytelling that highlights one of the golden rules of good filmmaking – less is more. We see just what is needed for us to draw our own conclusions and that is the film’s biggest strength. A big nod to the writing team of Josh Singer and director Tom McCarthy here.

The casting and the performances – from the major ones to each of the minor ones – is spot on and the characters within this underplayed narrative are still fleshed out believably, their issues like that of McAdams with her Nana, again handled with a minimum of fuss. Technically too, there is much restraint in all its various departments, without foregoing any attention to detail. This helps us enter McCarthy’s world and experience the story as he wants us to – simply, without distracting us with this cut or that stunning epic shot. And that is the sign of a filmmaker fully in control of not just his material but his cinematic craft as well. You can’t ask for anything more.

Score85%

English, Drama, Color

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