The Light Between Oceans – Film Review by Robert Dooley
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson
In cinemas November 1st
Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of 2012 novel The Light Between Oceans tells the story of lighthouse keeper Tom and his wife Isabel, who after two miscarriages decide to keep a baby who washes up on their shore in a boat with a dead man’s body. As the years go by they are forced to deal with the repercussions of their actions.
I just wanted to get a basic plot description out of the way early in this review because I want to spend the rest of the time solely focussing on just what a marvellous and engrossing drama this really is. It’s a rare cinematic treat where all aspects of the film are firing at their full potential like they are here.
Our triumvirate of leads could not do better in a series of challenging roles and will surely be bothering awards committees on the back of their performances here. Fassbender plays stoic and noble Tom more through body language, facial expression and manipulation of the most soulful eyes in Hollywood today. He is a good man who made a bad decision for the right reasons but we can see it tearing him up inside. Alicia Vikander playing his wife Isabel brings such range from the bouncing joy at the start to such raw pain. The pair have such a tender chemistry it’s easy to see that they have ended up together in real life. Rachel Weisz as our third big name takes the role of Hannah, a woman who has lost it all and is struggling to keep going. A less talented cast would not have been able to handle the full range of emotion with such depth and realism as these three and they add so many layers of emotion to proceedings, you don’t just see that these characters are suffering but you can feel it.
The film looks and sounds gorgeous as we’re treated to shots of the Australian landscape accompanied by an understated piano score. Everything you’re seeing feels so earthy and grounded from the landscapes and the houses to clothes the character’s wear. This isn’t a glossy rose tinted look at post-World War One Australia but a world weary one. Scenes that could so easily have descended into melodrama, such as heart wrenching miscarriage scenes, are so minimalist but so effective.
The masterstroke of Cianfrance’s film for me is above all else I cared for these characters and so when they make decisions that we know are wrong we understand why they do it. When they come into conflict we enter conflict too because we have seen all sides and we know what is right and wrong but we feel for these characters.
This a film about love and forgiveness and doing what’s right even though it isn’t the easy thing and I think that’s a particularly important message in this day and age. This is a beautiful piece of cinema and I cannot recommend it highly enough.