Walking into the theater, the ticket taker rips the tickets and says, “Ooh Spotlight, gotten a lot of complaints about this one.” It’s laughed off. Then, halfway through the movie, an elderly couple gets up and walks out, the husband seemingly dragged out by the wife. They don’t return. When the movie ends, those of us who are left sit in silence for what feels like an eternity. Looking around, some people are shaking their heads, and it’s unclear whether they’re shaking at the events in the film, or the film itself.
Spotlight, directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy , is the story of the Boston Globe, and the 2001 Spotlight investigative team that broke the story of child abuse in the Boston Catholic Church, and the cover up that spread throughout the town. Read Monkeys Fighting Robots two reviews of the flick here and here.
The tales of abuse are horrifying, but maybe the even bigger shock is the depth of the cover up. Teachers, police, and even parents of victims, all burying their heads in the sand because they don’t want to believe that members of their church are capable of such actions. This is why it’s so disappointing, to see and hear about people walking out of this movie; it ignores the message the filmmakers (and the real life Spotlight team) tried to get across. The Spotlight team didn’t want to hear the truth – they were part of the problem for all those decades of abuse. But they knew that reporting the news isn’t about reporting what people want to hear, but what they need to hear.
While film is a source of entertainment for the masses, it can be so much more. Great films can educate, and open people up to new points of views. Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is a tough watch, centering on incredibly flawed characters, and infuriating its viewers. But it’s this kind of movie that sparks conversation that leads to change. There’s a reason it made the AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time in 2007.
The dialogue in Spotlight is explicit, and makes its viewers uncomfortable. It’s supposed to; no one wants to hear a man recount putting a priest’s penis in his mouth when he was twelve. But instead of heading for the exit, understand that these are real things that happened because a society was too uncomfortable to listen.
Take two things away from this rant. One, go and see Spotlight, it’s an important film. Two, sit through it in its entirety, and listen to every disturbing detail. Leaving early, or denying that the events are true, will only allow atrocities like this to continue.
The original eye-opening story can still be found on the Boston Globe website, here.