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Movie Review

Spotlight

MPAA Rating: R for some language including sexual references.

Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Biography History Drama
Length:
2 hr. 8 min.
Year of Release:
2015
USA Release:
November 6, 2015 (select—5 theaters)
November 13, 2015 (expanded)
November 20, 2015 (wide)
DVD: February 23, 2016
Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment

abuse by priests was physical and spiritual

In the Boston area alone, nearly 250 priests were involved in the molestation of 1,000 victims.

statement in the film that suicide and/or psychological problems commonly result with boys abused by priests

long term cover-ups by Catholic Church leaders in hiding the truth about abuse by priests—or excusing it

What does God thin about lying, truth and hypocrites?

HYPOCRISY IN THE CHURCH—“I would never be a Christian; they’re a bunch of hypocrites.”


Boston Globe’s Spotlight Investigation (Wikipedia)

Child molestation

Sexual Abuse of Children
What is it? How widespread is child sexual abuse? One survivor tells her story. Includes ways to find help.

I think I was sexually abused, but I’m not sure. What is sexual abuse, and what can I do to stop the trauma I am facing now? Answer

stories of sexual abuse

rape victims’ stories

shame and rape


lust and fornication in the Bible

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

need of repentance of sins

the depravity of mankind


justice and the justice of God

Issue of pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

ORIGIN OF BAD—How did bad things come about? Answer

Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer


about Roman Catholicism / Roman Catholic Church

cover-ups within Catholic Archdioceses

Homosexuality

Sodom and sodomites

GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

What about gays needs to change? Answer
It may not be what you think.

Can a gay or lesbian person go to heaven? Answer
If a homosexual accepts Jesus into his heart, but does not want to change his lifestyle, can he/she still go to Heaven?

What should be the attitude of the church toward homosexuals and homosexuality? Answer

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality


justice

justice of God

the final judgment

Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer

How good is good enough? Answer

Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer

Featuring: Rachel McAdamsSacha Pfeiffer
Mark RuffaloMichael Rezendes
Michael KeatonWalter 'Robby' Robinson
Liev SchreiberMarty Baron
Stanley TucciMitchell Garabedian
Billy CrudupEric MacLeish
John Slattery … Ben Bradlee Jr.
Len Cariou … Cardinal Law
Jamey Sheridan … Jim Sullivan
more »
Director: Tom McCarthy
Producer: Anonymous Content
Participant Media
Rocklin / Faust
Distributor: Open Road Films, owned by AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment

“Read between the lies”

“Spotlight” takes audiences back to the second half of 2001 when a daily newspaper like The Boston Globe had the power to expose a massive cover-up and help change the world. Internet journalism had not yet supplanted the printing press, and some reporters were allowed to spend time on research before publishing their findings.

When a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) takes over the Globe, he meets a team of journalists known as “Spotlight,” led by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) who are accustomed to taking months to select a story, then additional months to cover it in depth. Marty asks the team to consider investigating whether a cover-up is taking place in the most highly respected institution in Boston: the Catholic Archdiocese.

Robinson and the Spotlight team accept the assignment, and they come up against ample opposition, because many people in Boston are very protective of their Church. More than one person points out to the Spotlight reporters, who all have Catholic backgrounds, that Marty Baron is Jewish, implying that he doesn’t care about them.

“Spotlight” contains very few surprises. You sense right away that the reporters are being painted as caring only about the truth, while the Catholic leaders and their lawyers are happy to keep protecting priests from the criminal consequences of hurting children. Though the movie proceeds predictably, it’s riveting to see the reporters getting consistently surprised by the depths of corruption they keep uncovering.

The film is based on actual events, so the filmmakers didn’t add sensational material, nor did they choose to show kids being molested. Instead, as if we’re on a jury, we hear testimony from grown-ups who have been physically and spiritually abused by priests they once considered, as they say, “like God.”

Some might accuse the movie of painting the Catholic church in an extremely negative light. After seeing it, I don’t think I would ever trust a lone priest or other male spiritual leader to be alone around children. As a follower of Jesus, it’s disheartening for me to see how some spiritual leaders have used their positions of power to exploit minors and aren’t stopped by their leaders—just sent to another town or given treatment as if they’re on “sick leave.”

I know that all kinds of churches have also dealt with evil men and women—not just Catholics. Though the newspaper reporters in this story weren’t acting on behalf of a particular church and seemingly left their own churches for the rest of their lives, I still saw them as doing God’s work to stop sexual predators and expose the system protecting them.

Several Christian adults I know will see an R-rating on a film like this and keep away. “Spotlight” is a film I’d still recommend to most of those people, because the profane language the Boston characters use is almost akin to their dialect. I expected it, and the film probably wouldn’t be true to its source without including a few choice words.

I have written that the sex/nudity is “heavy” not because anything is shown, but because the past crimes that are recounted by adults from their childhood are described in some detail. What the priests did is “Extremely Offensive,” too, but thankfully the movie doesn’t present the subject matter in an exploitative way.

Violence: None / Profanity: Heavy—“Jesus Christ” (1), “Jesus” (7), “Oh J**** Ch****” (1), “G*d-damn” (6), “Honest to God” (1), “damn” (1), “hell” (5), f-words (6), s-words (24), “a**” (1), “a**-hole” (1), “d*ck” (1), “cr**” (2), “cr*ppy” (1), SOB (1) / Sex/Nudity: Heavy—talk of sexual abuse, oral sex and rape (but not extremely graphic)

Sexual Abuse of Children—What is it? How widespread is child sexual abuse? One survivor tells her story. Includes ways to find help.

I think I was sexually abused, but I’m not sure. What is sexual abuse, and what can I do to stop the trauma I am facing now? Answer

stories of sexual abuse

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I just saw Spotlight and was blown away by the skill with which this excruciatingly painful story was told. The intelligent screenplay, the superlative acting by a stellar cast, the fine direction that kept the dramatic action moving along; all result in one of the best films I have seen in awhile. This is definitely a sober story that requires the careful attention that a significant news story deserves. “Spotlight” is a very thought-provoking and beautifully made movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Halyna, age 69 (USA)
Positive—“Spotlight” is a powerful, well-crafted film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child abuse and cover up by the Catholic Church. The film is very sombre and at times disturbing, but is done in what I feel was a honest and respectful way. The film doesn’t sensationalize or become melodramatic. It also doesn’t generalize or blame all Catholics or Christianity in general for the actions of the abusive priests. The film is not an attack on Christianity or the church, but condemns the system that allowed it to happen.

There is a fair amount of adult language and frank discussion of the sexual abuse that did occur. The acting is excellent, and the screenplay is very well written. “Spotlight” is a high quality film with something to say that I recommend to mature adults.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Steve Allaby, age 35 (Canada)
Positive—I am just wondering why I did not see any place on the list remotely situated in Italy or Portugal, I saw at least two in Spain and five in the Philippines which are both predominantly Roman Catholic countries, and the number of places reported were pathetically low; I think there are more. There maybe no reported sexual abuses in Italy and Portugal but it does not mean there were none. The USA, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand had more listed, and they are not even predominantly Catholic countries.

This is the Tragedy of treating men as gods and one tangible Proof that we do not Need priests to communicate with the LORD—it is after all a personal relationship. Thank you for allowing me to comment.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Virginia, age 57 (Philippines)
Positive—You wouldn’t think a slow-burner like “Spotlight” could pull you in so effectively, but this film grabs you and does not let go. Obviously, the viewer of a film like this must be able to look beyond the foul language and a couple vivid descriptions of the child abuse and just let the film unfold, as it does so spectacularly. While not excusing the language, it is set in Boston, which has always seemed to a have a very… rich vocabulary, shall we say. But honestly, to reference one of Rachel McAdams” phrases in the film, to “sanitize” this subject would not do the story justice. So, I hope most can put all that aside, because this is a story that needed to be told, and we haven’t seen an ensemble cast work this well in years! These actors were driven, and they show the often brutal work of simply digging up a story and getting to the truth in the face of one obstacle after another.

Of course, what really made this film tick is the fact that we all know this actually happened. But the sheer scale of the abuse, and potentially worse, the massive coverup, that the Spotlight team discovers looms larger and larger as the film progresses, and this is what keeps the viewer fully engaged, and very emotionally invested, so by the end of this ratcheting up the story, it’s almost cathartic when the paper is finally running through the printing press, bundled, and finally dropped like bomb on the doorsteps of Bostonians.

This is one of the best films the year, and perhaps The Best… certainly one I would highly recommend to any adult audience, and one that will most certainly be up for an Oscar.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Chad, age 40 (USA)
Positive—This was an excellent exposure of not only the Catholic Church and their cover-ups of crime, but of some of its priests as well. This is the first movie I have seen about sexually abused boys. I felt it was very necessary to know about this and how pedophiles affect their victims, in this case boys. It makes your heart go out for them and also makes you want to pray for the victims who are still suffering such abuse around the world.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Janis, age 63 (USA)
Positive—I’m so happy this movie won Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars! Not only did this story need to be told, but it must also me noted that The Church still operates in this dysfunctional secrecy doing damage to innocent children and families. For example, Gang Stalking is routinely practiced by Catholics and is very harmful in their use of vandalism, harassment and defamation of character toward other church members. Until The Church starts treating others with respect, kindness and inclusion, their numbers will dwindle down to nothing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: none / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Dana, age 51 (USA)
Positive—…The movie has a lot of profanity in it, but no nudity. It is about the child abuse and molestation in the Catholic church. Mature people need to see this movie. Some people blame the abuse on the fact that Roman Catholic priests are not allowed to marry. They also take a vow of celibacy, meaning no sex. No where in Scripture does it say minsters cannot marry. We also need to realize that ministers are human beings. Everyone has sexual feelings. Ministers are also not untouchable. They are not to be put on a pedestal.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Bill Boylston, age 57 (USA)
Positive—I wondered how the German people felt after WW2 when they learned the dirty secret of the mass murder of 6 million people. Now I know. It was a humbling movie to watch. We need to ask for God’s mercy to help us move on from these tragic events. I am happy that Pope Francis made this the year of Mercy.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—John D. (Roman Catholic), age 47 (USA)
Positive—“Spotlight,” a true story, won the 2016 Oscars for best picture and best original screenplay. It follows the edgy journalism efforts of a specialized unit of the Boston Globe, Spotlight, and their persistent year-long investigation into Boston’s Catholic Archdiocese shocking cover up of child molestation over several decades. This plot-driven film is not about religious bias, but the way journalism opened the door to a riveting systemic problem within the Roman Catholic Church. McCarthy paces the narrative with understated film action and superb editing in order to frame the scandal and cover-up by Boston’s legal system. The film immerses the viewer in the visceral truth and heart cry of the abused, “How does one say no to God?” The film exposes the raw emotions of the journalists as they grapple with faith when their work uncovers lawyers who protected the Catholic Church with under-the-table compensations to the abused, and that the head of Spotlight had buried a similar story years prior.

The power and meaning of the story lies in the paradigmatic levels of scandal and truth-telling when pinned under the abuse of power from those expected to protect and serve. Strategic editing stages this pivotal quote, “It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to abuse a child” then cuts from the speaker to a Catholic charity gala. After viewing the film, Boston’s archbishop said, “The media led the Church to acknowledge the crimes and sins of its personnel and to begin to address.… needs of survivors.” Of grievous importance is the sin of omission by those who turned a blind eye to the Priest’s actions, that to many, embody God on earth. Ultimately, the journalists ask the same question to all the oppressors as God posed to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden “What have you done?”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Connie, age 66 (USA)
Positive—This was a serious attempt to explore a sensitive and harrowing subject but why, oh why, was the spoken dialogue so slovenly and rapidly delivered. Fortunately, it did not prevent our continued watching, but it was extremely frustrating and at times almost compelled us to abandon connection with the film. When actors have important issues to communicate to an audience their (and the director’s) prime concern should be to make their delivery clear and comprehensible.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—BBD, age 86 (United Kingdom)
Positive—I thought the film did an excellent job of exposing these pious hypocrites who hid behind their religious garb while committing these despicable acts with children who trusted them. All the Church's power and MONEY couldn’t save them or hide them from the truth. I am sure and have faith that the clergy who are truly dedicated to serving God and his children will continue to do so in the way that God intended. Amen
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Mary, age 65 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This was a well-crafted film that was based on true events and contained very strong performances and direction. “Spotlight” is definitely a “safer” option for adult entertainment, but still contains very strong language including a handful of f-words and multiple abuses of both God’s and Jesus” names. Many milder profanities are written into the script, as well. Sure, this film takes place in the northeast where obscene language is prevalent, but audiences should still take extreme caution, as plenty of language is still used and some harsh sexual references are made.

…families should not be taking their children to this film. The R-rating still needs to be taken seriously when walking into “Spotlight.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Curtis, age 23 (USA)

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