The Light Between Oceans
dir-scr Derek Cianfrance
prd Jeffrey Clifford
with Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Florence Clery, Jack Thompson, Thomas Unger, Jane Menelaus, Garry Macdonald, Bryan Brown, Anthony Hayes, Emily Barclay, Leon Ford
release US 2.Sep.16, UK 4.Nov.16
16/NZ DreamWorks 2h12
The Light Between Oceans
Lovers of the Antarctic: Vikander and Fassbender

weisz thompson brown
venice film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Light Between Oceans Fans of sweeping romantic epics will enjoy this florid love story, its emotive performances and picturesque scenery. Those who think tortured melodrama is just a touch exhausting will find it a chore to sit through. But it's beautifully made and well-acted by a fine cast. An even if it doesn't have much to say thematically, there's at least some intriguing moral twistiness.

After the Great War, Tom (Fassbender) takes a job as lighthouse keeper on the uninhabited Commonwealth island Janus, where the Pacific and Atlantic meet. The nearest town is 100 miles away, and there he's smitten with Isabel (Vikander), daughter of a prominent couple (Menelaus and MacDonald). After they marry and move to Janus, Isabel struggles to carry a pregnancy to term. Then as if from God, a rowboat washes ashore with a crying infant inside. Isabel insists on raising the baby as their daughter, and Tom reluctantly agrees until he discovers the real mother (Weisz).

This a morality play in which each of the central figures has to make big decisions about right or wrong. Their reasons are clearly apparent in the way the story pushes and pulls them, so it's fairly easy for the audience to take sides. Some of what follows is darkly disturbing, as characters turn on each other, make selfish choices and surprise everyone with displays of sacrifice or compassion. But the path to redemption doesn't run smoothly for these people, mainly because of the directions they choose to take.

Performances are solid if a little unevenly matched. Fassbender is terrific as the stoic Tom, who only lets his guard down when expressing love for Isabel and the young Lucy (Clery). Vikander plays Isabel with an emotional slant that drifts from wacky to unhinged to wrenching. Weisz only really gets to play troubled, but her maternal yearning registers strongly. And the colourful supporting cast adds some bluster and gruff edginess.

Writer-director Cianfrance directs this in a way that shows off the sun-dappled clouds, rough seas and forbidding terrain (although he never identifies exactly where Janus is). The film looks picture-perfect, and its power to engage the audience hinges on the vivid physical chemistry between real-life couple Fassbender and Vikander. But Alexandre Desplat's surging score continually tells the audience how to feel. And clearly we're supposed to feel a lot.

cert 12 themes, sexuality 31.Aug.16 vff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Light Between Oceans Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall