Spotlight is based on true events, when the Boston Globe uncovered evidence that the Catholic church had known of child sexual assault by priests and covered it up by shifting priests from parish to parish. Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), a new editor at the Globe around 2001, insisted that a small story about a lawsuit pertaining to a priest accused of sexual assault be further investigated after the court documents were ordered to be sealed. What becomes apparent is the extent of the cover up and the reticence of a community that is staunchly Catholic to acknowledge the problem.
This is a solid movie. Unlike Argo, where essential elements of the story were changed to heighten drama and make the central characters more heroic, Spotlight sticks tenaciously to the facts, with the real reporters involved at every step of the creation of the film. This makes the film seem somewhat procedural, but there is genuine drama as the reporters discover the extent of the abuse and you get a good sense of the detail and doggedness that is needed to undertake good investigative journalism.
We never find out much about any of the characters, seeing them mainly in their work role with only glimpses into their personal lives to add some context of their personal struggles. We find out very little of the priests stories and there is no great insight into why something like this could happen. The Catholic church is represented in a fairly superficial way.
What I took away from it was the terrible ramifications of institutional blindness, particularly when it extends across a community, and how it harms those most vulnerable, those without a voice. I can see parallels in our own history with the systemic racism against our first peoples and the courage of the early dissidents who spoke out and risked their own wellbeing. It is a good illustration of the Edmund Burke quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” What is perhaps most chilling is that the Catholic church announced only last year (14 years later) that they would establish a tribunal to call to account the bishops involved in the cover up.
Bechdel test – fail