Open Road 128 minutes R
The story itself is disturbing. It took hard core journalists in the Boston Globe’s investigative unit called Spotlight to uncover and expose the sexual abuse of children by more than 90 priests in Massachusetts over a period of decades.
How did they do it? That’s the point of this film and what makes it different. This kind of film is often told from the perspective of the victims. Here, we get to watch how the reporters did the digging that finally held those responsible. Their reporting made a huge impact, rocking the Catholic church locally and globally.
You know what happened but Director/Writer Tom McCarthy and Writer Josh Singer don’t show any scenes of the abuse. It is tastefully done and stays on point for how the reporters did their job to bring those responsible to task. Even though it is revealed slowly, step at a time, following these reporters is compelling and very human without getting over dramatic. Singer says it was hard making the movie because they worried that revealing bad priests would make it hard for good priests. Even the actors say McCarthy and Singer did an amazing amount of research to be very careful and it shows.
Michael Keaton is Walter "Robby" Robinson with a light Boston accent, “Coach/player” of the Spotlight team with Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes, Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfieffer, and Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll. They kept working the story until they were able to unseal the documents showing how the Catholic church would move priests known for sexually abusing young people from parish to parish in a cover up.
Keaton says it’s not only a film about what happened but shows how we’re losing reporters like these as newspapers are dying. We both worked in news and agree that reporting has changed dramatically, not only for newspapers, but for radio and TV.
The actors got to spend time with the reporters they played. Pfieffer and Rezendez were actually on the set during filming. McAdams says it was a little nerve-wracking to have the reporter there but she learned so much that helped her play the role, like what extraordinary listeners reporters can be. She thinks Pfeiffer’s compassion and warmth talking to the victims helped the details of their stories come out giving the reporters ammunition. Pfeiffer says it was scary to have someone play her but was able to give suggestions during the shoot.
Mark Ruffalo is outstanding as relentless reporter Rezendez. He spent a lot of time talking with his counterpart in a bar asking a lot of questions. Ruffalo says, not only were the reporters generous with the information, the whole cast was also very giving and supportive. This is truly an ensemble cast of high level actors.
Liev Schreiber plays Marty Baron, the new editor of the Globe. Schreiber liked playing the outsider who gave fresh eyes to the story. Schreiber says “To pursue the Catholic Church in a Catholic town might have taken a Jew.” Baron found out that the Globe had tried for years to tell the story but couldn’t get the internal documents from the church. He gave Spotlight the green light to take the time to get what was needed to blow the lid off the story.
Stanley Tucci is amazing as Mitch Garabedian, the lawyer representing many of the victims who was hesitant to cooperate with the reporters. Tucci uses just the right amount of restraint, but shows how his character became a pivotal hero. The actor has a great amount of respect for the man he got to play. He says Garabedian is “indefatigable” and is still representing victims of abuse of all different ages.
You get to meet another hero in Phil Saviano (Neal Huff) who was a victim and became founder of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, who tried to expose these priests long before Spotlight and worked with the reporters to get more information. That organization is still active.
Billy Crudup, plays Eric MacLeish, the smarmy lawyer who arranged settlements to keep the victims quiet. He plays one of the bad guys, and applauds the way McCarthy and Singer made the film to give the victims their dignity.
Is this worth your bucks? This is a story that’s still going. But as Keaton points out, it’s not only about the sexual abuse of children by hundreds of Catholic Priests, but how tenacious reporting by professional journalists can make a impact. Billions of dollars have been paid to victims and they’re still coming forward all over the world. To prey on children, take away their innocence and shake their faith is told in this movie without being graphic. It jumps around a lot but that’s what happens when you follow 4 reporters around Boston digging for details. News gathering is not easy and good reporting takes time. You wanted them to go ahead and run the story, but they had to wait until all the pieces were in order. The Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for Spotlight’s work on this story. Now we think the film could also shine in the spotlight.