Derek Cianfrance’s “The Light Between Oceans”

Contains Spoilers

Derek Ciranfrance’s period drama based on the life of a lighthouse keeper and his wife is based on a 2012 novel with the same title by M L Steadman. The story happens on the Janus Rock, apparently, an island where two oceans meet.

One of the perfect ingredients of a period drama which is centered around relationships, deep down sentimentalities and self-moral conflicts, is to find a cast that can act and even more importantly weep graciously on screen. Derek should his casting team, Francine Maisler and Nikki Barreett, who did their job to the dot. The central cast includes three actors who have Four Academy Award nominations and Seven Golden Globe nominations between them.

“The Light Between Oceans” is about solitude and conflict with an enemy that is not an outsider. Tim Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) is a man returning after serving Four years in the army during World War I. He is appointed on a temporary contract to look over the lighthouse on Janus Rock, which the nation believe is important for them. When his three months’ contract comes to an end, the opportunity opens for a long- term because the current keeper killed himself throwing off his flat.

He is essentially numb for the emotions and desires a phase of solitude. He might be numbed out with all the killings he had seen during the war, but his military discipline and abiding by rules are still present for the keeps. He gets married to Isabel (Alicia Vikander) who falls for him in only their first interaction and even decides to go to a place that is completely secluded of any human conversation.

So long so good. Isabel gets pregnant and the water breaks on the night that her husband keeps a watch from the lighthouse. The morning he wakes up, he finds her near the door lying unconscious. She absolutely rejects the idea of visiting a doctor for whatever reason. The next time she is pregnant, he is there next to her but doesn’t know what to do. “What do you want me to do?” is what he asks her when she is experiencing severe contractions.

It is too much to take for a mother, to lose two kids even before they were born. And there comes a child along with its father on a boat that is lost in the ocean. Being a man of the army and with his military discipline Sherbourne doesn’t want to keep the kid and argues to report it. But Isabel being a mother who lost her kids thinks it’s a blessing in disguise.

This we are still talking during 1918s where a war just ended and the blood being a major trigger. As the child grows, the paths cross with the mother of the child- Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz), who also happens to be a daughter of the most influential person in the community, who also happens to be married to a German, who apparently gets lost in the ocean. It might sound way too much clichéd and with a purpose of moving the story along but how else would you make you lead character to pass through the Second Act.

Alicia Vikander who won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for “The Danish Girl” outperforms other two not because she is a better actress of the three but her character was the most logically and sensibly written one. She gets the emotions spot on as a wife and mother.

Overall, “The Light Between Oceans” has its heart in the right place but the warmth disperses way too often to keep the emotion tight as the movie progresses. The movie needed one person who can be a lover, wife, and mother in this high emotional drama and Alicia Vikander is probably the perfect choice.


Release: 2016 | 

Runtime: 132 Mins |

Direction: Derek Cianfrance |

Screenplay: Derek Cianfrance |

Cinematographer: Adam Arkapaw|

Editor: Jim Helton, Ron Patane|

Music: Alexandre Desplat |

Distribution: Walt Disney, Entertainment One (UK) |

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz


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