Boston Globe journalists re-open an investigation into the abuse of children by local priests in Tom McCarthy’s compelling study of shame and cover-up.


In the highly Catholic city of Boston in the 1960s nobody really wanted to open a can of worms involving child sex abuse by members of the clergy. Even at the time the Boston Globe did not follow through with an adequate investigation, although the paper had been sent evidence from the victims. Returning to the case a decade later, the then current journalists in the Globe’s Spotlight team of reporters find that many of the priests involved were moved to other locations or given so-called ‘sick leave’. It turns out too that even lawyers on the case were not averse to covering up the priests’ abusive behaviour to keep it behind closed doors.


Tom McCarthy’s film, based on actual events and co-written by him and Josh Singer,  looks at the evidence in a sober, clear-sighted way, slowly opening those hitherto closed doors to reveal the involvement of over eighty priests in Boston alone, many hundreds elsewhere in the US and thousands on a global level. New editor at the Globe, Marty Baron, impresses his staff to go after the system rather than the individuals who committed the abuse. Trying to get to the truth before any other paper handles the story, the Spotlight team go all out to reveal the guilty parties but without alienating the victims. A scene where a boy, now a grown man, reveals his story is movingly handled by reporter Sacha Pfeiffer, although there is a hint of prurience in her interview as she tries to get him to reveal all the grisly details of the abuse.



Paper trail: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d'Arcy James


McCarthy has gathered a fine cast of players including Liev Schreiber, quietly effective as the tentative new editor, Michael Keaton in a well measured performance as Robby Robinson, head of the Spotlight team desperate to get a result but scared of wrongfooting the whole investigation, and Rachel McAdams as Pfeiffer who exerts magnificent control over her feelings for the sufferers she encounters. John Slattery gives a gung-ho performance as the irritable section head Ben Bradlee Jr, son of the famous Watergate investigator, while Mark Ruffalo is the heroic chief reporter Michael Rezendes, always impatient to nail the priests involved but who has to be persuaded to take a softly-softly approach. Stanley Tucci gives an endearingly tetchy performance as Mitch Garabedian, a lawyer weighed down by his workload, who suspects everybody’s motives.




Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan, Richard Jenkins, Paul Guilfoyle, Len Cariou.


Dir Tom McCarthy, Pro Michael Sugar, Nicole Rocklin, Steve Golin, Blye Pagan Faust, Screenplay Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Ph Masanobu Takayanagi, Pro Des Stephen H Carter, Ed Tom McArdle, Music Howard Shore, Costumes Wendy Chuck.


First Look/Anonymous Content/Participant Media/Rocklin-Faust-Entertainment One.
128 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 29 January 2016. Cert. 15.