Grade: B+


Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz

Filmed two years ago, The Light Between Oceans, based on the international best selling novel, is director Derek Cianfrance's next chapter in the study of human interactions in the face of adversity; specifically, what happens when the unexpected leads to responsibility. Cianfrance shot over 200 hours of footage for the project, which utilized natural lighting amidst beautiful Australian and New Zealand landscapes. Narrowing such a wide scope of content into a two hour film creates a competing film full of majestic views and a bumpy story.

Michael Fassbender stars as Tom, a war vet who's taken a job as a lighthouse keeper. Before heading out to his expected loneliness, he meets the young and beautiful Isabel (Alicia Vikander). Smitten, he spends his hours tending to the lighthouse and writing letters to his beloved. Soon, the two marry and begin a fun, flighty life together, passionately in love and overwhelmingly excited for what's to come. After two failed pregnancies result in Isabel's depression and a strain on their marriage, a small rowboat washes ashore, carrying a dead man and his crying baby. Though Tom understands they must alert authorities back home, Isabel concocts a plan to claim the baby as their own, opening the door to an emotional and harrowing story of integrity in the face of love.

Though told in one breath, the film definitely feels like two separate stories: a sweeping romance, followed by a crime drama. The introduction of the baby's mother (Rachel Weisz) in act two sets the stage for these separate, but equal, sides of the story. While both are compelling, there is a noticeable disconnect between the scope of each that halts the plot, even as it continues hastily to the story's ultimate demise.

Cianfrance is no stranger to difficult-to-tell story structures. His The Place Beyond the Pines is a perfect example of a film that does a lot, mostly to success. While that film is intended to be structured in three specific acts, The Light Between Oceans wants to be one piece of beginning, middle, and end. Perhaps the ambitiousness of the filming process and the very long editing time kept the swiftness of the film's beauty from translating into an equally palatable final cut.

Supremely sad, while containing more than a few Gone with the Wind moments of utter romance, The Light Between Oceans excels most at its uncompromising cinematography, thanks to Cianfrance's driection and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw's artistic eye. Together, The Light Between Oceans has become the year's most beautiful endeavor, thus far.

The performances are top-notch, as well. Fassbender carries the flick with his quiet and strong Tom. Though Vikander is fresh off of her The Danish Girl Oscar win, this performance was completed prior to that film ever releasing, which shows the depth and trust Hollywood was already ready to give her, without awards attention even existing. Weisz gives, perhaps, the film's best performance. Her Hannah is understated to the perfect degree. The only shame is that the latter half of the film, which most features her, doesn't quite give her enough scenery to chew.

The Light Between Oceans may not make much of the Oscar conversation as the year continues, but it serves as the best transition from the summer blockbuster season into the fall awards season.

It's beautifully epic in its quietness.

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 132 min

© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.