Film Review by Kam Williams
Journalistic Drama Revisits Protection of Pedophile Priests by Boston Archdiocese
The Catholic Church has a very checkered past regarding its handling of the rampant molestation of children by the clergy. And Pope Francis recently tarnished that image further by issuing a plenary pardon to any pedophile priests willing to confess their sins.
This means the Church is likely to remain a safe haven for its protected perverts. Meanwhile, their traumatized victims continue to be frustrated in their quest for compensation or just to expose the identities of their abusers. That’s because the Church hierarchy has routinely opted to enforce a white collar of silence whereby serial rapists in its ranks are merely reassigned to a different parish rather than defrocked and reported to the authorities.
Directed by Oscar-nominee Tom McCarthy (for Up), Spotlight focuses on one of those rare occasions where the truth did manage to come to light. In that instance, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), the editor of the Boston Globe, was willing to look into the widespread rumors of a Catholic cover-up of molestation stretching back decades. . After all, as a Jew who was new to town, he wasn’t as awed as the locals by the powerful Boston Archdiocese being run with an iron fist by Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (Len Cariou).
So, the intrepid editor gave his approval to a quartet of reporters interested in launching a deeper investigation. Code-named “Spotlight,” the crack team comprised of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) researched the story for several years.
On January 6, 2002, they finally began publishing their findings in a series of damning articles that exposed Cardinal Law as an enabler offering protection for cronies he knew to be guilty as sin. For, the inquiry had unearthed mountains of evidence that the archdiocese was not only aware of about a hundred kids who’d been assaulted by numerous different men of the cloth.
But Church attorneys had repeatedly run interference for the perpetrators by settling claims out of court while simultaneously swearing the plaintiffs to secrecy via non-disclosure agreements. Consequently, the repeat offenders were free to move around from parish-to-parish, destroying additional youngsters’ lives in the process.
Overall, Spotlight amounts to a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church as little more than a meat market racket masquerading as a religious institution. Though not exactly a date night or a feel-good flick, the film nevertheless comes highly recommended for a few reasons.
First, it relates an important reminder about the salutary value of investigative reporting in a Digital Age when Google search engine optimization would assign a higher page ranking to a picture of a cute cat than to a story of such social relevance.. Second, the compelling screenplay unfolds in gripping fashion and without resort to rehashing salacious details in a manner bordering on re-victimization. And third, the A-list cast turns in a plethora of dynamic performances, most notably Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.
An iconoclastic drama that makes a convincing argument in support of the incendiary axiom, “The closer to Church, the further from God.”
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexual references and mature themes
Running time: 128 minutes
Distributor: Open Road Films