Quick Hit: Heavily emotionally manipulating, this beautifully shot film relies on its star’s performances.
Thanks for continuing to join us for Books2Film week. Today’s film is The Light Between Oceans, based on the notorious tearjerker. Director/writer Derek Cianfrance, working on his fourth movie, brings us the sad tale of Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) as he returns from “The War” to become a lighthouse keeper. It’s in one of the neighboring towns that he meets terribly forward Isabel Graysmith (Alicia Vikander). In an instant (well, a letter writing montage), they fall in love and are married and Isabel joins Tom on the island.
What follows is some of the most emotionally devastating scenes I’ve watched in a while. Vikander, showing why she is an Oscar winner, takes these and makes them her own. In fact, she’s the most watchable person on screen at any given time, frequently giving blank stares more meaning in her emotional distress than expected. Fassbender also holds his own, playing the tough upper lipped Tom, goes past the stereotype here. The island that these two inhabit with the lighthouse is Janus, named after the Roman god of duality. It’s a fitting bit of nomenclature, because by the end of the movie, everything is dual – the nature of relationships, and, in particular, the nature of parenthood.
Outside of the stars’ performances, the next best thing is the cinematography. Adam Arkapaw, who worked on season one of True Detective. Not only does he present beautiful shots of Janus and the lighthouse, but we also get some terrific aerial shots of the boat when transitioning to and from the island. The shots of Isabel dealing with different things are beautiful as well, and you could rarely have camerawork that shows emotion as well without being intrusive.
However, as the story goes, you realize how much you are being manipulated as a viewer. The plot is a bit cliché, and the characters are pretty much stock characters – stiff upper-lipped war veteran, young forward girl, etc. It’s truly a testament to the actor’s performances that you can look past these, because most of the writing and script is unremarkable.
All in all, if you are in the mood to have your heart hurt (particularly if you are a parent), but not necessarily to get any answers, The Light Between Oceans will give you some solid pangs. For me, the actors carry it to a “B+”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"