Written by Yosra Osman


Review: Spotlight

Yosra Osman thinks she’s just found her film of the year.

Spotlight cast shotI’m quite confident that Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight will remain one of my favourite films of the year right until December. With a carefully crafted script, strong ensemble cast and meticulous direction, it’s a film I’m still thinking about long after I saw it.

The story concerns the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning special investigations unit (called Spotlight), who uncovered a major scandal within the Catholic archdiocese. After new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) asks Spotlight to investigate a one-column story about a corrupt priest, Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton) and his team soon discover a disturbing cover-up: the Catholic Church have been using their power in Boston to hide the terrible abuse of children by priests. For decades.

Spotlight is an ode to investigative journalism at its best, done ruthlessly but sensitively. What starts with the actions of two or three priests escalates into an investigation into many more, as well as the role of the archdiocese in Boston. What’s worse is the impression that many more people were aware of the issue, at least in some way. From journalists to lawyers to institutions – including schools – a lot of people knew something.

“The scene in which Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes understandably shows his rage has been used for many awards shows, and it has duly seen him Oscar nominated.”

It is to the filmmakers’ credit that the storytelling doesn’t slip into the habit of being too stagy. With such difficult subject matter, McCarthy has done an excellent job in directing with a high level of maturity and compassion. Spotlight is engrossing but deliberately un-showy, full of intrigue without the hammy, over-the-top drama. Rightly so, a story as important as this doesn’t need over-embellishment or rousing dramatic sequences.

Equally, the ensemble cast show strength in being low-key. Michael Keaton is far more controlled than the ostentatious film star we saw in Birdman, and Rachel McAdams has a shining turn as journalist Sacha Pfeiffer, who interviews many of the victims while balancing the need for scrutiny with sympathy.

Mark Ruffalo’s Mike Rezendes is perhaps the only journalist who outwardly displays his emotion. The scene in which he understandably shows his rage has been used for many awards shows, and it has duly seen him Oscar nominated.

Spotlight is a moving thriller that will leave you deeply affected despite its reserved, unemotional approach to storytelling. It shows respectful sympathy towards victims of abuse while not exploiting them and demonstrates the successes of great investigative journalism. Truly an excellent film.


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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions