Spotlight: Understated Brilliance

A recent Best Picture win at the Oscars, coupled with Cardinal Pell’s topical report to the Royal Commission on Child Abuse makes the shocking narrative of Spotlight all the more absorbing. It recounts the engrossing true story of how the Boston Globe newspaper uncovered the widespread molestation of children within the local Catholic Archdiocese in 2002. The capable cast and crew, led by director and writer Tom McCarthy, pay worthy tribute to the dedicated journalists who revealed this scandal.

The ensemble honours the committed journalists of the Boston Globe with powerful, captivating performances. McAdam’s Sacha Pfeiffer brings a sensitive compassion to the all-male cast. Keaton, d’Arcy James, Schreiber and Tucci all give fine performances in this ensemble, Although Ruffalo’s passionate Mike Rezendes feels slightly overbaked.

McCarthy’s directing is subtle intensity at best, artfully evading melodrama through restrained manipulation of music and cinematography, coupled with forceful yet realistic performances.

Takayanagi’s cinematography is understated brilliance, building tension through slow zoom-outs and conveying meaning through brief, yet telling moments. He crafts camera-frames subtly yet powerfully; from an uneasy shot of a busy playground neighbouring a Church, to a quick glance at a victim’s scar ridden forearm.

Interviews with victims give a compellingly human face to the shocking statistics proclaiming the widespread nature of these predatory abuses. However, the suffering of the victims are not the focus of this film (for that I would suggest some powerful moments in Oranges and Sunshine). Instead Spotlight conveys the frustration, drudgery and eventual gratification of investigative Journalism.

Another admirable quality of Spotlight is its decision not to pretend that this investigation solved everything. A small but powerful moment of the film contains Rezendes (Ruffalo) delivering a copy of the exposé to lawyer Garabedian (Tucci). As Rezendes walks past Garabedian’s office he sees two children, both victims of molestation, and is reminded that abuse isn’t just in the past, but the present and, sickeningly, the future. Garabedian’s bitterly resilient statement “Keep doing your work Mr Rezendes” reminds audiences of the ceaseless nature of injustice and thus the constant need to uncover and fight it.

A rare film that powerfully relates real-life events without sensationalising them, Spotlight is an understated yet gripping film.

4.5 stars

Jo Bradley.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. vinnieh says:

    You summed up my feelings on this film, as you said an understated but powerful movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lloyd Marken says:

    One of your best reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nice review, my thoughts exactly! loved it’s “no frills” approach.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. darkjade68 says:

    Sounds like you’re interested in Film Making… I agree about the subtlety of the Directing… And the quiet power of the Film… I absolutely loved the Cinematography, but I’ll need to see it again to check out the music, as I must have been too caught up by the Story to notice this time… For me Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci’s Performances knocked it out of the park… But that doesn’t surprise me, Keaton was unbelievable in “Birdman”, and Tucci is always great… Interesting what you said about Ruffalo… For me his performance reminded me of Dustin Hoffman, that whole Internal rambunctiousness… But he was definitely more of a ‘Caricature’ then a Person in it… Still I liked his performance quite a bit

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JoBradley says:

      Hi! Yes I think production-wise it was an excellent film. Agree that Keaton and Tucci were, as expected, great. I was just never convinced by the authenticity of Ruffalo, particularly in his famous outburst. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. darkjade68 says:

        His outburst sucked, ha


  5. Lidia with a J says:

    I agree 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan O. says:

    Good review. My favorite of the past year by far.


    1. JoBradley says:

      Hi! Thanks for that- I’ll try and raise the bar again then 🙂


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