"Hold me ... This turtleneck is itchy and I am about to lose it!" Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and Tom (Michael Fassbender) embrace in a scene from director Derek Cianfrance's take on M.L. Steadman's best-selling novel THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS. Credit: Davi Russo © 2016 DreamWorks Pictures. All rights reserved. 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Florence Clery, Jack Thompson, Leon Ford and Bryan Brown

WRITER(S): Derek Cianfrance (screenplay); M.L. Steadman (novel on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): Derek Cianfrance


HERE'S THE STORY: Based on M.L. Steadman novel of the same name, The Light Between Oceans stars Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherbourne, a man looking for a refuge – both physically and mentally – following his military service in World War I. He finds it in Janus Rock, an island off the coast of Australia where a lighthouse keeper job has just opened up. It is at his interview where he ends up meeting Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), a young woman who takes an instant liking to Tom despite his seemingly dark and solitary tone.

Once married, Tom and Isabel seemingly have the best of times, and look forward to starting a family of their own. Then, tragedy strikes, leaving them both – Isabel especially – devastated. So, when a dead man and a crying infant wash ashore out of nowhere, Tom and Isabel face a moral dilemma they had not anticipated: Report the dead man and take care of the baby until the authorities alive or simply tell no one and raise the baby as their own since people know they had been trying to start a family and haven't seen the couple in weeks.

So why then, is the presence of Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz) on the mainland so threatening to Tom? Because he knows that if Hannah ever finds out the secret doesn't know, it could shatter his, Isabel's and little Lucy's (Florence Clery) idyllic life together.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? People who enjoy period dramas with moral dilemmas; Michael Fassbender fans; those who like emotionally wrought stories and are in the mood for one

WHO WON'T (OR SHOULDN'T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who hate movies where the story feels dragged out and slow to develop; those who find moral dilemma dramas where the characters place themselves into trouble problematic; anyone who watches the trailer and finds the film's story as coming off to dry 

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that is very well-acted but a bit long in its proverbial tooth, The Light Between Oceans is a well-executed drama ... That you may likely never want to watch again after it's over.

Back in the year 2000, a lot of things were different. We didn't have the constant threat of terrorism in our collective conscious quite yet, Livestrong bracelets, trucker hats and popped collars were in vogue and this song and singer's hair hadn't yet been played to the point where it would become a punchline in the annals of music history. I bring that up because that is also the year the movie Requiem for a Dream (which I argue was and remains the finest acting work of a then young Marlon Wayans career) was released. An emotionally devastating piece of work also starring Jennifer Connelly and a "you mean to tell me THAT guy is going to play The Joker one day?!" Jared Leto, Requiem was once dubbed by a friend of mine as "the feel bad movie of the year." That turn of phrase has stuck with me ever since as one I frequently cite when describing a film that, while having many positive attributes as a film, is one that may be hard to digest unless you are just in the mood to, well, be sad or contemplative.

The Light Between Oceans fits this mode to the proverbial "T" as you watch Fassbender and Vikander struggle with both their own individual and collective personal tragedies, moral dilemmas and general sadness as they try to push through. You will feel and understand each emotionally wringing moment they endure and every moral dilemma they face as they continue to try to push through and in turn, roll your eyes and go "noooo!" once one of them starts to go a bit off the rails. Likewise, as Weisz's character suffers through the pain of discovering the Sherbournes' secret and then the disconnect she experiences as a result.  

However, unlike the previously mentioned Aronofsky work, Oceans doesn't have that long-lasting quality that  grips you emotionally as much as it keeps you interested enough to see what will happen. The characters are wrought with distress, grief, guilt and pain, but not so much that your empathy rises to match your level of sympathy. Likewise, the long, drawn out pace of the film wears on your attention span/interest level; fortunately; the story does not play out in stereotypical fashion but a much more realistic sense, which keeps the film from falling into overproduced Lifetime movie status. 

Whereas Fassbender plays the moral glue of the story, Vikander proves herself extremely adept at portraying a woman so desperate to enjoy an element of life she cannot, she will go to an extreme to do it. Anyone who has a young child or that has lost one will easily be able to understand her actions, even if they (hopefully) don't agree with them, which is a testament to her commitment to her performance. Young Florence Clery deserves a good deal of credit for her performance as 4 year-old Lucy, as the words "oh she's so cute!" or "oh that's so sad!" will ring in your head every time she's on screen.) Writer/director Derek Cianfrance sets all of his cast again picturesque backdrops and uses the environment effectively in telling his story ... It's just a story that thanks to many moments might seem better suited for this woman than the average movie goer.

But should you choose to go, you'll find there is a lot of darkness in The Light Between Oceans but not enough to keep it from having some shining moments of dramatic expression.



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