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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spotlight chronicles the events leading up to the Boston Globe's trailblazing articles, published in 2002, about Boston priests abusing children -- and the perpetrators' superiors covering it up. It's an intense subject, and characters discuss the wrongs that were done to them with much pain and discomfort, which isn't easy to watch, but the movie ultimately offers valuable messages about the importance of exposing wrongs and making those who abuse their power accountable for their crimes. Expect some swearing (mostly "s--t") and verbal sexual references, loud arguing, and somewhat graphic (and definitely disturbing) accounts of kids being abused, as well as hints of their reliance on drugs and alcohol. Characters are also seen smoking.
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What's the story?
In 2002, following the arrival of new editor-in-chief, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), the Boston Globe's investigative reporters -- Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James), who are members of an internal team called SPOTLIGHT -- and their editor, Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), are assigned to look into abuse allegations against the Catholic church. In a city like Boston, where the church looms large, it's a tall order, and one that involves a little bit of soul-searching ... and a whole lot of digging.
Is it any good?
Put simply, this drama will likely make journalists want to be better at their job and Catholics either quit or commit themselves to making the church do better. It's that thought-provoking. Told with few flourishes -- relying instead on fine storytelling, a strong script, and a deliberate-but-insistent pace -- Spotlight immediately feels timeless, telling an All the President's Men-like story with the same gravitas and intelligence as that classic.
Credit goes primarily to the stellar cast, a disciplined group that doesn't give into the usual over-acting that hobbles some "prestige movies." Kudos also to screenwriter Josh Singer, who has approached the subject matter with palpable care and empathy. Spotlight makes viewers think about how an unquestioning faith in institutions may not just be inadvisable, but devastating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Spotlight depicts journalists doing their job (and sometimes failing at it). What pressures do they face? Does the film put journalists on a pedestal or humanize them?
What role does the media play in society? Does that role change based on the type of media (print, online, broadcast)? Do you have different expectations for reliability/accountability from the different forms of media? Why or why not? What other questions are key to ask to understand the media?
How does the film show how systemic injustices take root? Is there any way to prevent them?
- In theaters: November 6, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: February 23, 2016
- Cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams
- Director: Tom McCarthy
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some language including sexual references
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.