The Light Between Oceans
Great performances from Fassbender and Vikander.
Resonant emotional core
Great cinematography and production design.
Based on M. L. Stedman’s novel of the same name, The Light Between Oceans is the implausible story of WWI veteran Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) who takes a solitary job as a lighthouse keeper. Shell shocked and shy, he meets Isabel Graysmark (the always interesting Alicia Vikander) and begins a romance destined for heartache.
Though their love flourishes, circumstances have a way of playing even the most devoted and loving of couple against one another. It is pretty hard to endure all their hardship.
Their troubles are made worse by the somewhat ridiculous and implausible ways they both behave. Isabel in particular seems to lose some grasp on her reality. Perhaps this is a deliberate plot device, but it doesn’t seem calculated. I’ve become pretty forgiving of the devices a storyteller chooses to move their plot along. After all, there wouldn’t be a story otherwise. But it helps when things make good sense and here they often don’t.
Despite the unlikely ways the characters behave at time, the emotional truth of the story stays intact. While the stupid things they do seem like contrivances, nevertheless, they emotionally behave in ways I found believable. The characters therefore “feel” true and that is something quite rare.
The film is beautifully photographed, but despite that, I got a little tired of watching the little boat ferry Tom and Isabel back and forth to the lighthouse. I mean, every single time. It was nice to look at each time, but I think after once or twice, I could probably have figured out that they were riding a boat around and that may have helped tighten up this 133 min running time.
It all amounts to a pretty heartbreaking experience, but one which seems to lack lasting impact for the viewer. It’s like a big budget Hallmark channel film without the optimism.
Performances are strong – Alicia Vikander in particular cements the elements of the picture together.