‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’ – Deuteronomy 32:35
The basic remit of film or art or even life itself is to make you feel something. As much as I hated Lars von Trier’s pretentious drivel Antichrist, the film wanted a reaction from it’s audience and it got one. In this respect it must be considered a success. I came into Spotlight knowing the subject matter and expecting a movie that would go to some pretty dark places, what I didn’t expect is how effecting and powerful it would be for me personally.
I was raised a Catholic which meant 12 years in 2 different Catholic schools, confession, communion and occasional family outings to church. I went on two religious retreats, one to Lourdes in France and one to Durham. In those years I was exposed to countless priests and other members of the clergy. As I have gotten older I have of course become aware of the culture of sexual abuse that is rife amongst the Catholic church and I have obviously been disgusted by it. Until watching Spotlight however, I have never made the link between systematic abuse within a religious organization and my own childhood. Spotlight forced me to make that link and whilst I can categorically state I was never involved in any incidents of abuse or anything like that, the fact is that I easily could have been. This was not a comfortable viewing experience for me.
The fact that this film engaged with me on such an emotional level is a testament to the immense quality of everyone involved. This is a story that could have succumbed to melodrama, heavy handedness and cliché. Instead an incredible cast allow the story itself to take centre stage whilst director Tom McCarthy makes sure that every necessary detail is included to ensure this unbelievable miscarriage of justice is properly brought to light.
Mark Ruffalo is of course a revelation. His mild mannered and calm performance in the first half of the movie stands in stark contrast to his wild eyed commitment in the latter half bringing to mind his show stopping turn in Zodiac. Michael Keaton continues his career resurgence after the success of Birdman with another assured and charismatic turn. Liev Schreiber gives a career best performance as socially awkward editor Marty Baron and the scenes involving the three of them together are dynamite. Elsewhere Stanley Tucci probably deserved a best supporting actor nod at the Oscars as well as Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams once again shows she has impeccable taste when it comes to picking her roles. Jennifer Lawrence takes all the plaudits but in terms of consistency, Rachel McAdams may well be the best actress on the planet right now.
I said at the start of this review that the most important thing about art is that it makes you feel something. After watching Spotlight I felt sad, confused, moved, but most of all fucking angry. In a world where so many things are swept under the carpet this is an issue that should be at the forefront of peoples mind all the time. Spotlight is a story that is bigger than the journalists who wrote it, director Tom McCarthy makes that crystal clear by only touching on the private lives of the people involved. It is a story that is bigger than the actors who appear in it and bigger than the medium in which it is expressed.
Spotlight isn’t just a film, it is a call to arms.