Directed by: Derek Cianfrance – Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson
The Light Between Oceans has already attained a lot of publicity, due to the fact that its stars, Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, struck up a relationship on set. However, I doubt many people could tell you much more about it. It is in fact based on the best-selling 2012 novel of the same name, by M. L. Stedman.
Fassbender and Vikander play Tom and Isabel, a couple who live on the remote island of Janus, where Tom is the lighthouse-keeper. Desperate for a family, they suffer two still-births, so when a boat washes ashore containing a dead man and a terrified young baby, they agree to raise her as their own. However, Tom later inadvertently discovers who her real mother is (Weisz) and the guilt and remorse ultimately tears both families apart.
This sounds like it has all the criteria to be completely heart-wrenching, and indeed it does. With both parties desperately loving the child at the centre of the drama, there is plenty of heightened emotion, tears and recriminations.
Fassbender and Vikander do have a great chemistry, and everyone in this movie gives a great performance. The script is well-balanced, so you see both sides of the story, and the ending is designed to leave you with a lump in your throat. Also, there is a total blast from the past, in the shape of Bryan Brown, who played Tom Cruise’s mentor in Cocktail. He’s somewhat greyer, but other than that he hasn’t really aged a bit.
However, all of the above refers to after they get to the main plot point – the couple taking in the child as their own. There is an extremely long build-up to this, which focuses on Tom and Isabel’s relationship. This could easily have been cut in half. It means that around half the movie is a gentle romantic drama, so it is somewhat jolting when all the other elements are introduced, even if you’ve read the book and know where it’s going. This is a real shame, as the island vista allows for some stunning cinematography, and with more prudent story-editing, this could have been a completely wonderful first act to the movie.
Once it gets going, this is a wonderful human drama that will really tug at your heartstrings. It avoids melodrama, and instead subtly layers on the emotion, until it hits you in the gut. It is somewhat shameless in its desire to move you, but that’s OK as it does its job. It’s just a shame it takes so long to build up to it.
Overall, this is a decent drama that is deeply affecting, once you get past the first 50 minutes or so.
In Cinemas November 1st! See trailer below: