Cinema Review: The Light Between Oceans | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019  

The Light Between Oceans

Studio: Dreamworks
Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Sep 02, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Tom (Michael Fassbender) returns home from World War I and immediately takes up work as a lighthouse keeper, a solitary occupation tailored for his battle-hardened soul. Threatening his life of brooding isolation, however, is the spritely Isabel (Alicia Vikander), who he meets before departing. Despite committing to melancholy and avoidance (everything he touches dies, he claims), Tom can’t deny Isabel’s enlivening presence. They quickly wed, and after a few months of post-marital bliss (Isabel’s fascination towards living on a drab island is satiated), they experience a major reversal: Isabel miscarries. They try again, only for the same result. With Isabel’s spirit diminished (and Tom’s touch of death prophecy come to fruition), a baby literally washes upon their lonely island in a rowboat. Also in the boat is a dead man, presumably the baby’s father, and Tom wants to report the discovery. But with a baby finally in Isabel’s arms, restoring her spirit, he decides against it, a decision that haunts him forever. After all, he may have stole yet another child from its mother.

The rest of The Light Between Oceans deals with the fallout from that decision, addressing themes of nurture and loyalty and providing some unexpectedly heavy moments in what could have been its own, better movie. Admittedly, the premise takes more than a typical act’s worth of screentime to establish, but too much of the opening hour is spent establishing Tom and Isabel’s happiness with unnecessarily extended scenes of the two frolicking about in nature. Director Derek Cianfrance made a name for himself with 2011’s Blue Valentine, a grounded and devastating observation of a marriage falling apart. His subsequent work -- namely, The Place Beyond the Pines -- was lackluster but at least could be lauded for its non-traditional approach. Not even that can be said for this film, which more closely aligns with the dense, traditional work of Anthony Minghella than the fresh, promising filmmaker teased by his early work.

Author rating: 3.5/10

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