Hot Take: An emotional powder keg with an unnecessarily long fuse.
The Light Between Oceans has a lot going for it. Both Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander who fell in love during the filming of the movie appear very committed to their roles. The supporting cast bolstered by a very good performance by Rachel Weisz is complementary to the two star’s performances. The cinematography makes the film beautiful to look at. The characters feel authentic, the mood is set yet the story and all its contrivances fall short of anything more than mediocrity.
Unfortunately, The Light Between Oceans is painfully slow. The pace makes the story being told feel manipulative in its effort to tug at your emotions. Surely, it’s heart-wrenching to watch the story of two isolated lovers on a remote lighthouse island who try and fail to have a child twice only to have a baby wash up in a boat manned by a dead man. At that point, writer/director Derek Cianfrance knows exactly what he wants from his audience — tears! The rest of the movie is spent conditioning the audience for that response with more melodrama than a modern soap opera.
Does it work? Well, sure it does. The only thing is some people might mistake how tough it is to get through the last hour with some sort of emotional response rather than the fact that the film drags you to its conclusion. The work feels rather heavy in the third act to the point where you’re surprised someone doesn’t have an unexpected fatal illness or isn’t unexpectedly flattened by a bus. Fortunately, Fassbender and Vikander are still there and hold this one together the best they can. This isn’t the first time either one of these performers have made a film better by gracing it with their presence and surely won’t be the last.
So, bring tissues if you decide to see The Light Between Oceans. If you don’t at least get a little misty eyed by the end, you might want to check and see if you’re human.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Obvious Chemistry Between Fassbender & Vikander
MHT has gushed over Vikander before and will continue to as she is currently my favorite actress. Beside Fassbender who also consistently has been better than the movies he’s appeared in (X-Men: Apocalypse and Steve Jobs most recently), Vikander elevates an otherwise contrived and calculated film into something a little bit better than just a cheap attempt to get the audience to feel something. It’s no surprise the two fell in love on set, you almost can see it happening on screen.
Even though it does it at an excruciatingly slow pace and feels canned rather than authentic at times, The Light Between Oceans does plenty to pull at your heart strings and it wouldn’t be surprising if you have hard time watching the last 15 minutes or so through blurry, teary vision.
- It’s Beautiful to Watch
Credit goes to Adam Arkapaw who was the director of photography on the film as the spectacular scenery makes the film easy to watch even when the elongated melodrama overstays its welcome on the screen.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Unnecessarily Long
There is plenty the film could have done to tighten up the viewing experience without losing some of the melodramatic elements. The choice to stretch the film out to over 2 hours makes The Light Between Oceans feel like a grind.
- Too Sudsy
It’s unsurprising how many shots of ocean foam were used in the film. With the material derived from M.L. Stedman’s novel of the same name, the foam may have been more representative of how much of a soap opera this film really is rather than a feature film.