With Spring still feeling as far off as my dissertation deadline, in an imaginary, never-ever-land, that means the weekend is still home to sloth-sofa syndrome, a condition I hardly suffer from during the Gibraltarian summer (i.e. swelteringly hot and sunny, as a summer should be) months, but one which holds me tight in its grasps throughout the cold, shitty Yorkshire weather of term time.
So this weekend my top pick for an afternoon complete with never ending cuppas (if, unlike me, you’re a fan of a hot drink), fuzzy pjs and the company of equally hungover housemates is Spotlight. Released back in January, with six Academy Award nominations to its name, the film boasts stars like Michael Keaton (making me super nostalgic for my childhood fave, Jack Frost), Rachel McAdams (of Mean Girls and The Notebook fame), Stanley Tucci and a standout performance from Mark Ruffalo.
Set in Boston circa 2001, the film hones in on the Boston Globe’s prolific investigative journey into the biggest cover-up in the city’s Roman Catholic diocese’s history. With the arrival and encouragement from their new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), a Jewish, baseball-hating outsider, the e’s ‘Spotlight’ team look into a previously covered story, regarding a retired Catholic priest and accusations of child abuse. What follows is an incredible unravelling of hundreds of individual cases, and a story of systematic closeting and silencing, which not only involved the Church, but leaves the entire community exposed as complicit.
The great thing about this movie, is the way it does little to dramatise the events that took place, the story unfolds slowly but surely, with attention to the details involved in what was such a complex layering of lies. There are no gimmicks, no unnecessary romantic side stories, just pretty simple shooting, going through each and every tedious step it took for the journalists to completely uncover the absurdity and unprecedented nature of the abuse scandal. Every unanswered phone call, chasing leads, knocking on doors, scouring through decades-old records, the dilemma about when to release the story, being discouraged at every turn; they keep it real, because the story doesn’t need to be accessorised, the shock-wave impact is completely of its own merit. This is no more emphasised by the understated, yet huge list of similar ‘major abuse scandals’ which have been uncovered across the globe, featuring just before the end credits (a 200+ city strong list).
The amount of opposition the team of four faced during their all-consuming investigation is just unbelievable, not just from one or two people in positions of power, but from almost everyone around them who incredulously repeat throughout the movie, “You’re going to sue the Church?!”. This really shows not only how influential the Church was (and is), not only how bad the crimes were, but also how complicit the entire community were in keeping it under wraps for 30 or 40 years in some cases.
The film isn’t primarily a Church basher, it’s not meant to be a tear-jerker, it’s simply a story about how it can sometimes take outsiders to show everyone on the inside exactly what they’re overlooking, turning a blind eye to or, in some cases, completely suppressing. And the film has done exactly what McAdam’s character, Sacha Pfeiffer, says during their investigation: “We’re gonna tell this story, we’re gonna tell it right”. My fingers are crossed this undeniably important story throws a little shade (oops) on the perhaps more artsy, cinematically pleasing nominees.
Snack of choice: sweet potato (paprika) wedges with an obligatory garlic mayo side. Lots of them.
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