Is there a show or movie that you always, always go back to? Like no matter how many times you’ve seen it, it is absolutely your go-to-need-something-to-play-in-the-background-as-I-fold-laundry piece of content? It could be The Office or Friends or whatever. But because I have such high-brow refined taste (wink wink), I always go to the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight.
If you haven’t seen Spotlight, there’s no point in spoiling anything because it’s all based on real events anyway. It’s basically about how a team of investigative journalists at The Boston Globe uncovered a massive child abuse scandal and its cover-up by the entire Catholic Church. Following the initial uncovering by the Boston Globe, millions more cities around the globe followed suit and outed their own local child abuse scandals from the Catholic Church. The movie features an ensemble cast - including American Treasure Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, American Treasure Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, and more - and what I like about this cast is that no one person outshines the other. The film features each of them (more or less) equally because they are a team uncovering this together. No one person could’ve followed this story alone and in real life, it took the entire team of people working together to uncover this scandal, for which they went on to win the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for public service.
The film begins very small, focusing on a single priest and how there’s a new editor at The Boston Globe. The new editor, who is notably Jewish and not Catholic like the rest of the journalists, pushes for the Spotlight team to dig into the priest and see what they find. From that moment, there is resistance and shock - you simply can’t touch the Catholic Church, and certainly not in a city like Boston where Catholicism is embedded into its culture, its businesses, and even its architecture. But they go for it and the whole thing begins to snowball into uncovering more and more priests and more and more abuse cover ups. There’s a scene when the team consults an ex-priest and psychologist about the statistics of abusive priests and it chilled me to my core.
Like I said, there isn’t anything too flashy about this film, but that’s not to say that every single shot wasn’t carefully put together and thought through. The word I associate with this film is subtle - because the subject matter is not subtle at all, the cinematography and direction takes a subtle direction that I think work in tandem to push forward this great visual narrative about what happened. The desaturated quality of the film reflects the rainy and local atmosphere of the big city of Boston. In many scenes, particularly those shot outside, the foreground is carefully shadowed by a church in the background - subtly emphasizing the utter influence of the church, that the Catholic Church is watching over every step that the characters make. It’s inescapable.
Spotlight is so tightly written, tightly edited, tightly acted - like, not only is it subtle but TIGHT AF. Tom McCarthy, who also made The Cobbler that same year, made a spectacular comeback with this tight af film and despite all the brilliant moving parts, every single aspect of this film - be it the actors, the cinematography, editing, etc - is carefully supervised and brought together to make a cohesive and well-functioning piece of cinema. Peach wine and soju shots all around!