One Great Scene: SPOTLIGHT

cloaked scene, Michael Keaton, One Great Scene, Paul Guilfoyle, Rachel McAdams, SPOTLIGHT -

One Great Scene: SPOTLIGHT

In this series of articles, we’re going to do a deep-dive on one knockout scene from a great movie. Today’s movie is SPOTLIGHT. The scene is when Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams speak to representatives of a school Keaton’s character went to, which may have had abusive priests and abuse victims. Here’s a link to the scene as a refresher ( The scene is really about the essential theme of the movie, which is that everyone knew this was going on, and willfully chose to ignore it, because it was easier.

Rachel McAdams’ character opens the scene asking if it’s possible this was going on and no one at the school, including the faculty and the school board, knew this was going on. One of the representatives, who previously attended the school, minimizes the discussion. Another acknowledges there could be some validity to it.

Paul Guilfoyle plays Pete Conley, a fixer of sorts for the church. He immediately tries to smooth things over. Pete tells Michael Keaton’s Robby, “Robby, as well-intentioned as Bill’s remarks are, I’m hoping we can keep this between us until we get on the same page.”

Robby pauses and asks, “Is that why we’re here? To get on the same page?” The subtext is bullhorn-loud, but no one says it. Conley is there to make sure nothing bad about the church makes it into the press.

Robby explains he spoke to one of the priest’s victims who could never figure out why he was selected as a victim. Robby knows why – the victim played hockey, and the priest coached the hockey team. Robby and one of the other representatives played different sports. As Robby soberly says to close the scene, “I guess we just got lucky.”

There’s nothing more to say. The scene ends. As has been the case with all the scenes we’ve reviewed in this series, no one says what they really mean, and the true “point” of the scene is cloaked in the design.

Everyone sitting in the room has the same information, but they are all handling it differently. Robby and McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer have learned this information the hard way. Pete Conley’s job is to minimize the fallout. The two school reps are on different points of an ignorance spectrum, with one minimizing things throughout the scene and the other acknowledging the possibility this is real. 

In this one scene, the film teases out the core issue – if everyone knows but no one will say it out loud, how will anything ever change? 

Is this a great scene to you? Let us know in the comments below. 

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