Film Review – The Light Between Oceans (2016)


Title – The Light Between Oceans (2016)

Director – Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine)

Cast – Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Anthony Hayes, Jack Thompson

Plot – Stationed as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the coast of Western Australia after the first Great War, ex-soldier Tom (Fassbender) and his new wife Isabel (Vikander) face tragedy in their marriage as miscarriages threaten to tear them a part. When a baby washes up on their shore in a small raft with the body of a dead man inside, the couple make a potentially fateful decision to keep the child as their own.  

“You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day”

Review by Eddie on 10/11/2016

Impeccably acted and handsomely crafted, The Light Between Oceans has all the hallmarks of becoming the new aged Notebook and an awards worthy weepie, but against the odds of many of the films wins, Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of M. L Stedman’s best-selling book of the same name lacks a certain something that makes it truly special, despite it being a league above many other films of its kind.

Cianfrance is a wondrously talented filmmaker, his breakthrough Blue Valentine and his follow up The Place Beyond the Pines are as good a double bill of films as your likely to get from a new director and his talent behind camera was enough to snare the work of leads (and now couple) Michael Fassbender and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander to the fair shores of Tasmania and New Zealand (filling in for the tales early 1900’s Western Australian setting), and while the film looks amazing thanks to D.O.P Adam Arkapaw, sounds fabulous due to the work of composer Alexandre Desplat and generally has an air of prestige about it, Cianfrance’s film never lays the killer emotional blows you are expecting that would’ve elevated Oceans to whole different levels.

These levels that lay so close to Ocean’s grasp are no more personified by the performances of Fassbender and Vikander, who deliver knockout performances as two differently but equally broken humans who’ve found each other but find their love tested through various trials.

Fassbender’s lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne is a war veteran looking to escape the world and it’s a restrained turn from the naturally charismatic actor while Vikander’s initially bubbly Isabel Graysmark is another huge win for the actress, who quite literally could be the best actress working today, and as Isabel’s world is thrown upside down with a series of miscarriages and the eventual discovery of a baby on a washed-up boat, it creates an intriguing arc for Isabel and Vikander excels at the different emotional range required for the role.

With so much emotion and feeling between these two characters the most obvious flaw in Cianfrance’s film that disallows this adaptation to make us real wrecks in the emotional stakes is the films second half, as the new addition to Tom and Isabel’s life is discovered, we as an audience never really get to connect with the character of Lucy/Grace as she is torn between two families, each equally deserving of her in their own ways. Had this bond between paternal parent (here played somewhat blandly by Rachel Weisz) and the adoptive saviours been stronger, it’s likely the brilliant first half of the film would’ve combined to create the classic that was so possible for this drama riddled tale.

A fine film, Light Between Oceans is ever so slightly disappointing when you consider where Cianfrance has come from and what he had here at his disposal from both a location sense, a cast sense and a material sense but this tear inducing tale, while not delivering an emotional wallop, is certainly an upper-class weepie that fans of Stedman’s book will likely lap up for years to come.

3 ½ baby rattles out of 5

14 responses to “Film Review – The Light Between Oceans (2016)

  1. I enjoyed Blue Valentine and the Place Beyond the Pines. Cianfrance seems to coax heart wrenching performances out of his actors. I have been curious about this movie and here is another one on the list. Thanks!

  2. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I really wanted to go and see the premiere at the Venice Film Festival this year. I’m really looking forward to it and it seems like a great movie. I’ve seen Blue Valentine and I was emotionally scarred by it… Great movie but so painful to watch. Great review!

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