“How do you say ‘no’ to God?” asks one of the victims in the film “Spotlight.” This movie is the story of a team of investigative reporters for the Boston Globe, a team known as “Spotlight”, who in the mid 1990’s began intense research into recurring stories of sexual abuse by local priests. These were stories that seemed over time to surface and then disappear for years. This film recreates in detail the work of this investigative team to bring down what we now know was just “the tip of the iceberg” of a history of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

The story is not a condemnation of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church. This abuse is an evil that exists within the Church. The shocking accounts portrayed in this film were a result of hubris in the name of religion. This film reinforces the fact that priests are not God – they are human. The film presents this question: Is it possible that the Catholic doctrine of celibacy for priests is unnaturally restrictive? The priests portrayed are like alcoholics “falling off the wagon”. Once they cross over the line, they slip again and again, as there is no longer a line to cross. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of young lives were affected by lapses in judgment of many priests. One priest alone, John J. Geoghan, had 130 victims come forward to talk with the Spotlight reporters. In 2002, attorney Mitchell Garabedian of Boston obtained a $10 million settlement for 86 of Geoghan’s victims. His firm is still working to this day to obtain more resolutions. Stanley Tucci superbly portrays this eccentric and tenacious lawyer in the film.

Although built on detailed historical narrative, the film gains momentum that doesn’t stop. Writer/director Tom McCarthy, who is a talented multi-hyphenate actor/writer/director to watch, has done a great job with a sensitive piece full of factual information. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi and editor Tom AcArdle skillfully establish the key scenes. The all-star cast who portray the Spotlight investigative team live up to expectations: Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and John Slattery are believable and intense. Liev Schreiber as the incoming new editor is perfect. Also noteworthy are Billy Crudup as an unethical attorney who believes his own embellished stories, and Richard O’Rourke as a priest whose childlike mind does not comprehend the impact of his sins. Ruffalo’s character singlehandedly carries the impetus of the second half of the film on his shoulders with his frenetic and obsessive race through Boston’s neighborhoods to gain timely evidence.

The Spotlight investigative team won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for public service for its stories on clergy sex abuse. In spite of the impact of the transgressions by the priests, I believe the worst sinners are those who knew and turned a blind eye – many, many people over the years who knew and did nothing. I’m sure they rationalized any troubling thoughts by saying, “It’s not my problem.” “Spotlight” is a film of great import well worth seeing and will generate worthy conversation.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kwboole@gmail.com

For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com/.