The Light Between Oceans (2016)
Buy The Light Between Oceans on Amazon Video // Buy the Novel
Written by: Derek Cianfrance (written for the screen by), ML Stedman (novel)
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western
Australia raise a baby they rescue from a beached row boat.
A simple and effective story is bolstered by solid acting and directing. This is that rare instance where the lawful punishment hurts everyone involved. The Sherbourne's are in the wrong, but the law potentially ruin's a child's life.
The first half has a singular focus, but the second half suffers from too many moving pieces and a big contrivance. Despite the flaw, it's a well-made film.
This has the craftsmanship of director Derek Cianfrance's previous work, A Place Beyond the Pines (2012) and Blue Valentine (2010), with a strong focus on a relationship. This doesn't quite reach the same heights, though the major plot point and conclusion begins to approach some of the same ideas.
This is a period piece that begins in 1918 with a whirlwind romance between Tom (Michael Fassbender) and Isabel (Alicia Vikander). He's the lighthouse keeper, and I understand why he'd choose such a lonely occupation. After World War I, he seeks isolation. Maybe Isabel does too, or maybe she's smitten with him. It's an odd choice for her.
After two miscarriages, a baby in a row boat drifts to their shore. It's soon enough after her last complication that she proposes to Tom they pass the child off as their own. She doesn't think she can have children, and then is an answered prayer. Tom states they should report it but hesitates, eventually relenting despite their disagreement. The first half is a story about love and suffering, hopes and joys.
The second half starts with an amazing moment of serendipity, Tom just happens to see a woman, Hannah (Rachel Weisz), crying in a graveyard before his daughters christening. He peers at the tombstone responsible for her grief after she leaves and deduces she is the mother of the child he and Isabel found. It's just a bit too contrived, despite this being a fictional narrative.
Tom feels guilty and seven years later he unintentionally launches an investigation. The case is tricky and leads to the film's main question. Lucy only knows Tom and Isabel as her parents. It's heartbreaking for them to loser her, but also for Hannah. Hannah finally has her daughter back back but Lucy doesn't know her, and doesn't want to. Lucy views Hannah as a false mother. It's hard on everyone, especially the confused child. I couldn't help but think it might be best to leave Lucy with Isabel, but that's in contrast with the law. It's an emotional roller coaster.
I really liked the story of Tom and Isabel. The movie goes out of its way to craft a singular love story with beautiful imagery, but the second half didn't have the same tone. I understand the movie needs to get to the major plot point, but there has to be a better way to do it.
There's a fair amount of speculation with what will happen to Tom and what Isabel will do to regain her child. The final scene was a really nice way to end it, continuing the themes a couple of decades later.
This is an absolutely beautiful film, from the landscapes to the framing of the shots.