Review: The Light Between Oceans
Director: Derek Cianfrance
By Sarah Stopforth
The Light Between Oceans is visually an ocean sunset, with impeccable performances by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. Unfortunately, the plot falls short. It feels like a cliché sequel to The Notebook, which doesn’t measure up. But for all the romantics out there – this film is for you.
Based on M.L. Steadman’s 2012 novel of the same name, and directed and adapted by the man behind The Place Beyond The Pines (2012) and Blue Valentine (2010), my hopes were high for this romance melodrama.
The story follows Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), a World War I veteran who gets a job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote island of Janus Rock, off the coast of Western Australia in 1918. Before he leaves, Tom meets local girl, Isabel (newly Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander) and the two form an unwavering bond of attraction and fascination. After writing to one another from across the ocean for some time, they are reunited. Tom and Isabel are married in 1921 and return together to the isolated isle. They try to have children, but Isabel suffers two miscarriages. So when a crying baby and a dead man in a dingy floats onto the island shore, Isabel reassures Tom that it’s a sign and they must keep the baby. They name her Lucy and raise her on the picturesque island. However, when the family of three returns to the mainland some years later, Tom discovers who the baby was before they found her, and an avalanche of guilt rolls in, particularly when they meet Lucy’s biological mother, Hannah (Rachel Weisz).
This film was so close to working, but it didn’t. The tight shot sizes on the faces of Fassbender and Vikander tried to manipulate an emotional response out of the viewer. There was true emotion there and the situation they were in was sad, but the manipulation was so unnecessary. The film tugs at the heartstrings too many times for the audience to really feel it when it’s important.
I am usually an absolute sucker for a good romance movie, and I one hundred percent consider myself a romantic, but something about The Light Between Oceans left me unsettled and unsatisfied.