Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy (2015).
Back when I reviewed Trumbo, I had the opinion that if you’re not willing to bend a true story around to make it fit a dramatic structure, you’re better off making a documentary. I’m glad that Spotlight proved me wrong.
Spotlight tells the true story of the Spotlight investigative journalism team in the newspaper The Boston Globe; this team lead by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), Ben Bradlee, Jr. (John Stattery) and Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy) uncovered and reported the massive scandal of child molestation within the Catholic Church.
Spotlight is extremely careful to portray these events in a rigorous way. Any adaptation requires interpretation of the facts and therefore cannot be objective, but it can try to be rigorous. The actors shadowed their real-life counterparts and tried to impersonate them as best as they could; apparently, they succeeded. The Boston Globe offices were recreated minutely; but more importantly, the whole subject matter is looked at in depth and from different perspectives.
What I found the most enriching about the movie is its depth about the social structure that enabled these molestations: in Catholic communities, priests are authority figures, meant to guide and protect their parishioners, which only makes it more difficult for victims to resist, speak out and be supported when they do. It’s not only about a group of people doing something immoral, it’s about a power structure and a way in which it is deeply flawed. Nevertheless, the journalists are not heroes nor saviours here: it is also discussed how they could have uncovered the scandal sooner but they didn’t because it wasn’t convenient at the time.
The movie is about the development of the investigation and the report: no romances are shoehorned in and the protagonists’ personal lives are discussed very briefly and only in how they affect their work. It’s a textbook example of how you can make an engaging film about a quite abstract topic and still refuse to use cheap dramatic tricks or to make it gossipy and personalistic in order to make it more interesting. It’s so close to being a documentary that it could be called a dramatic reenactment, and a quality one.
All in all, a must watch.
Resources: The Boston Globe on Spotlight.