The Light Between Oceans

Year: 2016
Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
Written by Tom Sheffield

In a year that has brought a fair amount of novels to the big screen, including ‘Girl on the Train’, ‘Room’ and ‘Me Before You’, it’s no surprise that New York Times bestseller ‘The Light Between Oceans’ would get the film treatment sooner or later. Whilst I haven’t read the book myself, I had heard quite a lot about it when the film was announced, and ever since the names Fassbender and Vikander were announced in the leading roles, I was sold. 

Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) is a war veteran who signs up to be a lightkeeper on an island off the coast of Australia. It’s not long into the story that we see Sherbourne fall for local girl, Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and they marry so she can live with him at the Lighthouse. After two heartbreaking miscarriages, Isabel has fears she’ll never be able to have a family, until one day Tom spots a rowboat washed up on the shore near the lighthouse and cries of a baby can be heard echoing from it. Tom and Isabel rescue the baby from the rowboat, which also has the baby’s dead father in it. Isabel begs Tom to let her bring up the child as their own, despite Tom wanting to report the incident as he is supposed to, by company and government regulations. Despite his rule-following nature, Tom wants to see his wife happy and they bring up the baby, Lucy, and bury her father’s body.  A couple of years later Tom and Isabel have Lucy christened and Tom discovers the identity of Lucy’s birth mother, who actually named her Grace. Tom, now racked with guilt and overcome with emotion, now faces a moral dilemma which will tear him apart emotionally and truly test his love for Isabel and Lucy.

Michael Fassbender’s character isn’t a very talkative person, he’s very closed off and I think due to his time in the army and his experiences, he struggles to communicate his feelings. Fassbender delivers an awards worthy performance, and despite the lack of dialogue he’s given, his eyes, body language and mannerisms are enough for the audience to know what his character is thinking at all times. His on-screen romance with Alicia Vikander seemed so effortless and real that you truly felt for the couple during the heartbreaking scenes of her miscarriages. Vikander also gave an awards worthy performance in this film. Her character goes through a lot of highs and devastating lows throughout the film and her deliverance of her lines and the portrayal of her emotions were truly heartbreaking and like Fassbender, during her dialogue-less scenes you could read her thoughts like a book by just looking into her eyes and reading her body language.

Throughout the film we are treated to some incredible aerial shots of the lighthouse and the island the couple live on, as well as some wide shot scenes that truly show the beauty of the locations where the crew filmed . The scenes are beautifully shot and really match the tone of the film, with some nice wide angles, and a lot of scenes shot at eye level, as if we were in the room with Tom and Isabel. The small town Isabel is from has a genuine 1920’s look and feel and it’s a real shame we weren’t shown some more of it during the few scenes that took place in it, as it seemed really authentic. 

As I mentioned, I haven’t read the book so unfortunately can’t comment on my thoughts on how it’s been adapted to screen. I will say that the plot and script were incredible, and normally this kind of film wouldn’t be my cup of tea, however it’s easily secured a place on my list of favourite films this year; no easy feat this late into the year since we’ve had some absolutely incredible films released so far. ‘The Light Between Oceans’ will nicely sit alongside ‘Macbeth’ on my list, which similarly featured an outstanding performance from Fassbender.

I would highly recommend watching ‘The Light Between Oceans’ for the incredible performances from Fassbender and Vikander, beautiful cinematography, and a morally challening plot that will keep you questioning what the characters will actually do, and perhaps what you would do. Whilst there are big jumps in the timeline of the film to keep the run-time at a decent length, the scenes still flow together nicely. The result is a well presented story of love and family, that is well worth a watch, and will undoubtedly see some recognition in awards season. 

Tom’s rating: 9.2 out of 10
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