Review: Spotlight (2015)
The end of innocence
I read a book recently about evolution and religion. In the book the author states that while religion can help people and has the capacity to do good, we must first look at all the bad it has facilitated and then place those two considerations on a scale to weigh them out. For example, without religion, the twin towers would still be standing and all the people who lost their lives on 9/11 would not have died that day. Religion was behind the crusades, it has been behind school shootings and serial killings and the recent Paris tragedy and countless civil (and world) wars. And without religion, there would not be an epidemic of biblical (no pun intended) proportions concerning twisted, pedophile priests using their holy anointing to prey upon their underaged congregation. An epidemic that has only relatively recently come to light, but one which has been raging for as long as priests have been donning their clerical collars.
Spotlight is about the Boston Globe uncovering and reporting on the sexual molestation of children by priests in Boston. Although the paper only starts with a single reported offence, the Globe's Spotlight team eventually uncovers that over two hundred (!) Boston area priests were involved in over a thousand (!) reported cases of sexual abuse towards minors over the past thirty years. Over a thousand. By priests. Holy men of God, spiritually anointed by God Himself through the archdiocese to care for and lead their congregational flock in a better understanding of, and a closer walk, with Thee. Is there anything more twisted, more purely deranged, than that. And that's just Boston. After this story broke, thousands of priests all over the world have been accused of molesting by many tens of thousands of people. To the casual observer it looks as though the Catholic church is running a birthing house for pervert criminals.
And it doesn't help that the Church itself has been so aloof in taking responsibility for its clergy. As the Spotlight team uncover more about the story, they uncover more about the cover ups by the Church to keep these stories under wraps, when they are well aware of these heinous goings on. So aware in fact that they actually have a number of full time treatment centres around the world, always operating at full capacity, solely for pedophile priests in need of 'spiritual realignment'. And are the priests then stripped of their collars and sent to prison or at the very least to live in exile somewhere nowhere near a church or a child? No, they're sent right back out into the world to another church with another congregation full of children with innocent lives to ruin. And I do mean ruin.
As the Spotlight team investigate, they speak to the survivors. Considering all the many thousands of incidents of sexual abuse within the Catholic church, it isn't easy at first for Spotlight to track down a great many survivors to talk about their experiences. This is because many, if not most, survivors of clerical molestation are either unwilling to talk about their experiences, or they are dead. Dead from suicide, dead from drug or alcohol addiction, dead, essentially, from an inability to function in a normal healthy way. Think about that and then consider what I said earlier: thousands of priests the world over have been accused in tens of thousands of cases. And the accusers are the lucky ones, the ones who made it, how many more cases will go untold by the ones who didn't?
Director Tom McCarthy directs Spotlight with a very matter of fact approach. The film is dry, stubbornly paced and presents the facts without any interest in a poppy visual style or expressive angles. In essence: this is the way it was. Good for him, this story is too important for those distractions. The same can be said for the acting. The film boasts an impressive roster of seasoned actors and all of them do well to get the job done without a bit of scenery chewing. I was particularly impressed with Liev Schreiber, who's understated performance here is also one of his best.
I recently watched two documentaries on these scandals: 2012's Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and 2006's Deliver Us From Evil. If there's one qualm I have with Spotlight, it's that for anyone who has seen these doc's, the movie doesn't have much to offer you won't already know. In fact, if you haven't seen these doc's, whether you see Spotlight or not, I highly recommend watching them as they paint an even fuller picture than the one you'll get with this film.
Spotlight is an important movie, it's a brave movie and it's a movie that needs to be seen. People need to be aware of these atrocities being committed in God's name and the Catholic church needs to do something about them already. The world is losing its religion at a higher rate today than ever before and with all the horrible things being done in God's name these days, it's not hard to imagine why.