The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans

(2016)

Love demands everything.

A lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) and his wife (Alicia Vikander) living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat. From writer-director Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines), based on the 2012 critically acclaimed debut novel from M.L. Stedman. Shot in New Zealand (Otago) and Tasmania.

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Flicks Review

In adapting and directing M.L. Stedman's novel, Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines), casts a powerhouse acting duo in Michael Fassbender, and Alicia Vikander. They play Tom, a the tortured WWI survivor, and Isabel, his wife. Serving as lighthouse keepers in remote Western Australian, they rescue a baby adrift in a boat, (a Biblical reference to Moses, who was found floating in a basket). Years later they meet the real mother, setting off all sorts of melodramatic machinations: tell the truth, or keep the child they’ve grown to love?... More

If you’re a sucker for long, slow-paced, tear-jerkers, this’ll have you sobbing into your popcorn. It’s a beautifully-crafted journey, but bloody slow going. What staved off the tedium, for me at least, were top-notch performances from the leads, (ably supported by the likes of Rachel Weisz, Jack Thompson, and Bryan Brown), coupled with Alexadre Desplat’s sumptuous score, and Adam Arkapaw’s gorgeous big-screen cinematography.

Tragedies and moral dilemmas aplenty, award-worthy performances, and enormous emotions make this a movie that over-earnestly demands to be taken ever-so-seriously. Yet it never quite engages, perhaps due to a pace that plods, a running time of over two hours, and a mishandled third act.

As Frank (Leon Ford) says: “You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day”. Sad to say, despite admiring the craftsmanship and relishing the obvious talent on display, I found myself resenting the latter half of the film as the most bloated, self-important, torturous melodrama since The English Patient.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 6 ratings, 2 reviews
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BY cinemusefilm superstar

Every now and then a film comes along that reminds us of how beautiful and powerful cinema can be when it stays close to its artistic roots. Like primal colours and confident brushstrokes in a classic painting, a great film depicts strong emotion, sprung from critical life choices, in a bold palette, against natural settings. The Light Between Oceans (2016) is a beautiful and emotionally strong film. Set against a visually stunning lighthouse that stands between two raging oceans, the film’s... More title and place is a metaphor for an irresolvable ethical dilemma and the power of self-sacrificing love.

We meet Tom (Michael Fassbender) as an upright and emotionally scarred veteran of World War ! who seeks isolation as a lightkeeper on the lonely Western Australia coast. Soon after taking the position he marries Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and their lives are idyllic amidst the splendour of the rugged headland and its majestic beacon. But dark clouds gather after two miscarriages, and Tom is helpless to give Isobel the happiness he so desperately craves for her.

Fatefully, the roaring oceans offer up an abandoned boat with a dead man and a live baby. Despite Tom’s deep sense of wrong, they bury the body and keep the child as their own, bringing Isobel unbounded maternal joy. He later learns of a woman who lost a husband and child at sea and is tormented by their deception. They love the child, but Tom cannot continue knowing the grief his actions have caused. When he reveals the truth their world collapses.

Melodrama is inevitable in a romantic period drama and it flows freely across the landscape, the plot, and the characters. Everything about this film is intense: the deafening sound of the seas; the extraordinary beauty of the rocky headland; classically framed cinematography; and the joy and pain of Tom and Isobel’s lives. At times this intensity feels forced, as if the director is trying too hard to make us smile or cry on cue. There is little subtlety in the symbolism of clashing oceans as the echo-chamber for the conflict between happiness and doing what is right.

This film’s relentlessly poetic visual and emotional tensions can leave little room for an audience to catch its breath, but this is not unusual in the romantic period genre. The performances of the co-stars are superb: Fassbender is stoic, tense, and brooding throughout and is balanced by the exuberantly beautiful Vikander. Supported by a cast of top-shelf stars and a musical score that resonates with the film’s visual pleasures, this is a morally thoughtful film with an epic quality that lingers.Hide


I was gifted a ticket to 'The Light Between Oceans' showing at Dunedins Rialto Cinema, Moray Place. A fine metro theatre with all you'd expect, and an unexpected delight of a couple of Emersons fine products being available at the concession stand. Several crew were students of mine during my brief stint st SIT. I was so proud to see their names in the credit roll.

The film though, is a snorefest.

Fassbender robots his way through an interminably glacial script, with no opportunities to see... More the man behind the military damage.
The real star of this tedious sideshow is Alicia Vikander who shines with emotion and ability far beyond the overtly handsome and damaged Mr F.

Plagued by formulaic script turns, contrived arcs and not a surprise in sight.
Lack-lustre editing slow down this piece even further and a palette so muted it must've been designed by 'The Beige Brigade' further steal this film from being memorable and worthy.

The target demo, as witnessed in the screening populace, is 50+F, white, middle-class with a box of tissues and one, or more, cats. Please do not. Just don't. There is nothing here, save for nicely composed shots of Port Chalmers, Long Beach, Oamaru and other suitable locations, etc etc etc,

The content of this vapid and instantly forgettable film is just that.Hide


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The Press Reviews

59% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • Fassbender and Vikander make the film work, just. Full Review

  • The actors hurl themselves into their roles with sufficient commitment and feeling that you believe in Tom and Isabel completely, even when the creaky narrative machinery around them begins to trigger your skepticism. Full Review

  • The film's solemn visual rhythms exert an almost hypnotic spell that for a time gives a heroic dimension to a story as emotionally fraught as a vintage Bette Davis melodrama. Full Review

  • Often beautiful and moving, but emotionally it never quite sticks. Full Review

  • "The Light Between Oceans" winds up taking one too many self-serious twists and turns. The film earns its darkness, but it might have been even more affecting if it didn't shrink from the light. Full Review

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