Spotlight (2015): Intentionally understated and speaks volumes

Bushra Ben Hamed • Apr 11, 2024

Spotlight (2015) directed by Tom McCarthy and written with Josh Singer (Rotten Tomatoes).


The world’s best kept secret, relentless journalists, and the tru, unsavory definition of community. Those are the elements of today’s review of Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film Spotlight.

Based on a tremendous true story, the Best Picture winning film follows the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe newspaper as they investigate a case that would rattle and shake the world permanently: accusations of decades-long sexual abuses of children in the Catholic church.

The film is unremarkable visually, and it seems to have been a conscious choice made by the filmmakers. It’s almost as if to tell the audience, “hey, we’re not here for a pretty picture. We’re here for a story you can’t be distracted from.”

The most notable visuals are grand, sprawling shots of Boston. However, a running theme of the film is that in many of the shots, the church is either present or it’s towering over the characters, looming over them like an ever-present dark entity that’s watching their every move threateningly and closely.

A special aspect of this film is that the character actors, those playing the survivors, give the best performances out of the bunch. They’re incredibly profound and emotional, and they serve as the film’s purpose and its beating heart.

Spotlight sets out to demonstrate just how deep rooted the evil of the Catholic church can be, but it also serves as a criticism for journalists. We see more times that one that the journalists in the film had been previously informed about the abuses taking place in Boston, having been sent names and evidence in the previous years.

However, due to lack of interest or perhaps seeing that the stories were too thin or unimportant, they were buried in random columns or not spoken about altogether.

This film goes on to highlight the importance of community, for both the benefit and the demise of its people. Because as it states over and over that the Bostonian people all love their city, it implies that they love it to a fault.

That they’re willing to overlook, or worse, cover up such egregious acts in the name of maintaining community, and in the name of God. Because, as the film chillingly states, how can you say no to God, right?

A monumental and harrowing tale of perseverance pulling what is concealed in the dark out into the light, Spotlight serves as a reminder that while it takes grit and audacity to unveil heavy truths, it’s necessary work for the sake of justice and freedom.

Spotlight is now available on Netflix, but will be leaving the platform Apr. 30, 2024.


Listen to this story as told on CHUO’s weekly show The Mosaic: