There are so many movies out at the moment that I have been looking forward to for months, but Spotlight has remained firmly in the top three (the others being The Big Short and Trumbo). Spotlight is about The Boston Globe uncovering the Boston Archdiocese child abuse scandal in 2002. Having seen it last Monday with my Dad, I reckon it’s All The President’s Men for this generation.
A new editor, Marty Baron, arrives at The Boston Globe in 2001, and having seen a small article about John Geoghan, a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children, he instructs the investigative journalism team, Spotlight, to find out more about the story. As the journalists dig deeper they find that the church hierarchy knew about Geoghan as well as many more priests. Their strategy was to move them from parish to parish and send them to rehabilitation centres, but crucially, they never involved the police and they bought off the victims with settlements and false promises.
The film certainly has resonance for anyone living in Ireland, given the huge number of sexual abuse cases uncovered here since the late 1980s. After The Cloyne Report, Taoiseach Enda Kenny made a speech in Dáil Éireann, condemning the Church, saying that their reaction to the ‘rape and the torture of children’ was to ‘parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon-lawyer’. It was the first time a high-level Irish official had attacked the Church, and a turning point given the Church’s importance and power in Irish society for centuries. Ireland is just one of many countries dealing with the aftermath of this systematic abuse, and the last few frames of Spotlight list the horrifying number of international cases uncovered so far.
The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer for their coverage, and the film has been hugely praised, having been nominated for six Academy Awards and winning a host of others. It’s an all-star cast and the performances are excellent, especially Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci. Of course it’s a tough film to watch and I was both angered and deeply saddened by much of it, which I’m sure is a common reaction. Spotlight manages to be respectful of the victims while still being a well-crafted drama. Highly recommended.