I went to see the movie Spotlight on Friday afternoon. Here are some quick thoughts.
Every now and then I’ll go to the movies by myself on Fridays. I tend to do a lot of my sermon preparation on Fridays, and from time to time I’ll go to a movie for sermon research. (I’m not kidding.) I’m preaching on Judas this Sunday, and it struck me that the movie Spotlight might give me some insight into the idea of betrayal.
Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday, is about the investigative reporting the Boston Globe did in 2001 that blew the clergy sex abuse scandal wide open. It is a serious, earnest movie that thankfully avoids the self-importance and self-regard in which these sorts of “Important” Hollywood films sometimes indulge.
At one point in the film, one of the reporters, for whom reporting on the story has been an emotional ordeal, shouts: “They knew and they let it happen…to kids.” That line really struck me, and I just started crying quietly, in the dark.
How could you betray that trust?
But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it? Spotlight does a good job of showing how the real scandal was not that hundreds of priests preyed on the vulnerable, but that thousands of people let it happen, covered it up. As one of the characters says, “It takes a village to molest a child.”
The movie very clearly takes on the Roman Catholic Church, but I don’t think Spotlight is either anti-Christian or anti-clerical. There was never a point while watching the movie that made me say, “I don’t think you are being fair.” Rather, I found the film to be a spotlight on the inevitable tendency of the strong to hurt the weak, and the invariable human tendency to knuckle-under, close ranks, and deny ever seeing anything.
I can’t compare Spotlight to any of the other Best Picture nominees since I haven’t seen any of them, but it is exactly the sort of movie that is worthy of that designation: tautly constructed, about an important topic, and a moving story.