For some reason I was compelled to see The Light Between Oceans, and admittedly I am not usually the first person who goes out and sees these sappy romantic dramas. I usually skip these, but the likeability of the cast, led by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, and the director, Derek Cianfrance, was enough to get me to say, “One for Light Between Oceans, please”. Yeah, I might have enjoyed it better with a plucky, vulnerable young woman at my side, which is the usual target audience for these type of films, but I’m actually glad I saw the film, because it gave me a film experience that has entertained my thoughts long after the credits rolled. I am so split down the middle on the film, not because of the emotions, but because I’m not sure how I felt about it. In one aspect, I really enjoyed the chemistry between Fassbender and Vikander, and their story held my interest throughout the overlong film, but at the same time, I never really related to them and felt the second half of the film was slower than a sloth in slow-motion. Maybe going into greater detail will help me make up my mind.
So let’s start with everything I liked about the film. Well, to make it short, everything in the first half of the film. For one, Cianfrance knows how to make the film look great. We have lots of beautiful shots and settings, and Vikander and Fassbender are pretty locked into their roles. Neither are necessarily Oscar worthy, but they do their jobs. Basically the story revolves around Fassbender’s character, Tom, becoming a lighthouse keeper following WWI, in which he served, and after a few months of loneliness, begins to see Isabella, who pretty much throws herself at him. A little quickly paced for the start of the relationship, but I went with it because, come on guys, who wouldn’t want Alicia Vikander throwing herself at you? Anyways, they get married and Isabella joins Tom on the lighthouse job. They try to start a family, but after two painful miscarriages, good fortune strikes them when a dead man with his infant daughter arrive in a lifeboat. Isabella, so heartbroken over the recent tragedies, begs Tom to let them keep the child, who is young enough to pass off as their own child. As Tom reluctantly agrees, he eventually realizes that the mother of the child, played by Rachel Weisz, is still around and looking for her daughter. His guilty conscious gets him and Isabella into nothing but trouble as the film continues. I won’t spoil the next plot points, but now we’ll get into my least favorite parts of the film.
As I mentioned off the top, I never really landed in the same spot Tom and Isabella did. For one thing, to steal someone’s child is deplorable, and I never really sided with them for keeping the baby girl. So when we’re supposed to feel sad for them being apart, I just said, “They put themselves here!” Plus the characters just go round and round on a merry-go-round for almost the entirety of the third act: Isabella’s mad at Tom, Weisz’s character is trying to adapt to a new life, and Tom is stuck in one spot feeling lonely again. The third act almost felt like an eternity, never as quickly paced or enjoyable as the first half. And truthfully by the end I didn’t care if Tom and Isabella were hung for their crime or if Weisz ran them over with a 1920’s car, just do something to get the plot going again! The last five minutes really made me upset though. For one thing, I had flashbacks to The Godfather Part III (1990), which historically shows some of the worst old-age makeup I can think of, and the death of one of the main characters is set up in one un-affecting shot, and I just didn’t care anymore. Whatever Cianfrance had to do to end the movie, I was fine with. Seriously, though, if you see the film, tell me with a straight face the makeup used is effective and truly makes the character look older. Well, older than five minutes than the last time we saw them.
Hmm, I’m still pretty split. Do I like the movie and recommend it? In a way, yes. It would be a nice date movie to figure out if the other person is someone you’d enjoy spending time with. In particular ask them what you would have done in Tom and Isabella’s situation. At least you’ll find out if they would steal kids or not. Again the cast does a good job with the material they’re given, and the film’s musical score, cinematography, and production design is top notch. However the slowness of the second half and the un-relateability, at least in my eyes, of the two leads, has me saying it isn’t worth watching. I’ll tell you what, I’m giving a positive review, but with reservations that there are going to be those out there who could really end up hating the film and those out there who will say I’m crazy and the film is perfect as it is. I guess that’s the best word on this one: it is entirely up to the individual. Some will love it and others will loathe it. And if you’re like me, there’s just enough to like to make me say sure, give it a shot, but prepare to be mildly disappointed.
My rating, 6/10.