The film about the reporters and editors of the Boston Globe who investigated and reported the story of pedophile priests in Boston and, it turned out, all over the world. Don’t miss the film even if you’re grossed out by the topic, because it’s the best film of last year (Astonishingly, even the Academy Awards voters thought so.). It made a thriller out of the writing of a story, of all things, and I didn’t think that was possible without drama-ing it up (see All the President’s Men).
My absolute favorite line from this film is when they’re sitting in Marty Baron’s office reading through the final draft of the story and Baron circles something and Bradlee says “What?” and Baron says, “Another adjective.” I suppose only another writer could understand why I love that so much. Which also probably excludes the understanding of all boys from 10 to 14, for whom most movies are written today. This, gloriously, isn’t one of them.
I also love the film because it shows journalists doing their jobs, even those who you can tell really don’t want to, like the assistant managing editor and the publisher, either of whom could have put the kibosh on the story from the getgo. It is extremely well written, and the acting is uniformly superb. I didn’t know Liev Schreiber could do subtle, Michael Keaton has just never been better, and I could mention Stanley Tucci but come on, when isn’t he great (“I’m not crazy. I’m not paranoid. I’m experienced.”). It is so very well scored, mostly a single, melancholy piano, and I’m thinking especially of that one scene where the piano melds into church bells ringing.
And it is so very well filmed. Every other scene of a Boston street has a church tower in the background. That scene where Patrick, one of the first victims they interview, is pushing his baby in a swing as Rezendes’ taxi speeds by in the background, court documents in hand that provide incontrovertible proof of the church’s coverup of pedophile priests going back decades. Every long shot of the newsroom has Baron in his office (Yes, I noticed! Thank you, Tom McCarthy, for knowing I’d be smart enough to. So few directors do.).
There is also a scene where the Spotlight team finds out that the 13 pedophile priests in Boston they think they are writing about may really be more like 90 (eventually it will be 249 in Boston alone). The camera pulls back so excruciatingly slowly, dwarfing their figures in the story’s shadow. It’s the perfect visual metaphor for both the story of the reporters doing their jobs and the story they are writing.
Note: Netflix will be live-streaming Spotlight beginning June 22nd.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.