Film Review – The Lighthouse (2019)

Title – The Lighthouse (2019)

Director – Robert Eggers (The Witch)

Cast – Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe

Plot – In the 1890’s, two New England lighthouse keepers (Pattinson and Dafoe) battle each other and their inner demons as they try to keep their sanity in the midst of a madness inducing island of isolation and trials.

“Yer fond of me lobster ain’t ye?”

Review by Eddie on 05/02/2020

With 2015’s The Witch, director Robert Eggers announced himself as one of the most exciting new talents of the decade.

A brilliantly realized slice of New English folk horror, The Witch was the work of a filmmaker who knows and is at home in his art form.

As we watched in terror as an unfortunate family found themselves living with a particularly dastardly goat on the border of a set of woods you wouldn’t want to hold a picnic in, Eggers displayed a deft hand behind camera as his unique vision unfolded before our eyes.

With such a well-rounded debut under his name, hopes were high across the industry that Eggers next project would further solidify the hype and with a return to a New England setting this time in the late 1890’s, The Lighthouse further enhances Eggers reputation amongst the top class of upcoming directors, even if The Lighthouse’s more bare-bones story and snail-paced proceedings will mean it finds itself both loved and hated in equal measure.

Quite simply the story of Willem Dafoe’s and Robert Pattinson’s isolated lighthouse keepers, the grissled and gassy Thomas Wake and the under-prepared Thomas Howard, The Lighthouse is far more psycho-drama than pure horror, as this Greek mythology laden event takes us on a journey of two men crumbling in different ways as their job and its dangers begin to take hold.

As with The Witch, The Lighthouse is stunningly well-shot and put together in a film-making sense, with Eggers getting great help from his hauntingly beautiful black and white photography courtesy of Oscar nominated cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, the films goose-bump inducing score by Mark Korven and his script co-written with brother Max while the films central performances are both a sight to behold.

Creating one of 2019’s great acting double acts, Pattinson and Dafoe excel as the two Thomas’s with the two well-liked actors giving their all to the film.

Featuring in some scenes and images that won’t soon be forgotten (a scene with a feathered visitor, images of a beached mermaid and Dafoe getting up close and personal with a light source some such moments), both performers are awards worthy in their respective turns.

With so much worth recommending, it’s sad to report that the journey we go on in the snail paced Lighthouse is one that depends a lot on it’s final destination and with a procession of repetitive situations and seemingly unimportant scenes littering Eggers film, by the time we finally get the films end game, you can’t help but shake the feeling the potential of where we are being taken is quickly overshadowed by a surprisingly weak final stretch that doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression for what is at times such an original and impressive offering.

Final Say –

Sure to find some ardent fans amongst many that will question what all the fuss is about, The Lighthouse is a technically brilliant sophomore effort from Robert Eggers that features two standout performances but it’s slow and metaphor filled examination of masculinity and the male psyche makes for an unpleasing narrative experience.

3 seagulls out of 5

12 responses to “Film Review – The Lighthouse (2019)

    • Agree Cindy, the craft and acting on show was fantastic but I felt the story was actually very weak.
      If your not into Greek mythology etc, I feel like this one leaves you rather empty.

  1. I was interested in watching it, but then I remembered I did not enjoy The Witch that much, and this one seems to have gotten a much colder reception than that one.

    • It’s certainly had it’s fair share of raves mate but I do feel like its the type of film that will split audience affection straight down the middle.

  2. I will probably watch it just from a cinematography viewpoint. Love artsy Black and White movies even when the script and acting isn’t the best. I think we all have favourite actors and actors that we hate… I don’t know what it is about Dafoe, but he just gets my back up. Can’t stand the guy. It’s totally illogical to think like this but I can’t help it.

    • The photography here is really amazing, I think if it weren’t for 1917 it would have had a chance at the Oscars coming up. Sad to hear about your Dafoe feelings but that does happen sometimes! I am a big fan of his body of work as his just so versatile!

  3. Great review. As you say, the technical brilliance, look and performances in this film are incredible, but I felt that all the amazing imagery and gritty descent into madness should have had more of a pay-off. I think symbolism and metaphor work really well in Egger’s very original vision, but I would have liked a more certain ending. I guess it’s all open to interpretation.

    • I agree with everything you say Paul. I had real problems around the halfway/3 quarters mark where I could sense so much of what we had to endure all depended on how the ending shaped up and I found the last 15-20 minutes really disappointing.

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