“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” That is the sentiment of Spotlight, an ennobling procedural drama, in which a glittering ensemble cast does unglamorous work, playing the team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered and publicized child molestation by the clergy and the cover-up tactics of the higher strata of the Roman Catholic Church. Although Spotlight does not scale cinematic heights, a consistent use of tracking shots, a series of outdoor scenes, one of which is set in Fenway Park, sets the movie apart from television. Generally low-key, Spotlight, thankfully, offers few sermons and no Argo-esque victory laps. Still, as black-and-white as a newspaper, its story pits good guys on one side and villains on the other. And, at times, Spotlight feels a little airtight: when a former priest is accused of child-molesting, he nonchalantly confesses, rationalizing the act by saying, “I got no personal pleasure from it. That matters.” The former priest’s sister shuts the door on the reporter, and, when the reporter asks her boss about following up, her boss shuts her down, telling her to focus on broader aspects of the story. Limiting the scope of the movie to the actual story that was published may be a way Spotlight swears fealty to its source material, but it begs the question of what a different, or longer, movie might have been like. Nervousness pervades the film about institutional arcana. Suspense is funneled through a channel of legal procedure as lawyers joust with legal motions in hopes of the Holy Grail: a batch of sealed documents incriminating the Church. Godspeed.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White