“The Light Between Oceans” guides viewers to tears

Heartbreakingly beautiful performances lift this film past its flaws.



Kyle Kohner, Writer

Derek Cianfrance hammers utter anguish into viewers’ hearts from its opening sunrise in the Light Between Oceans,” based off of M.L. Stedman‘s novel starring 2015 Oscar-nominees Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender.

Hypnotizing and Ethereal

Immediately, Cianfrance makes blatant that an emphasizes hypnotizing and beautiful cinematography is a strong point of this film. The ethereal cinematography features beautiful long shots of sunsets — one in particular of an isolated lighthouse made to look satisfying, perfectly setting up the somber mood for this film’s fabulous performances.

Alicia Vikander plays Isabel Graysmark, a grieving mother with so such sentiment and fierceness that viewers root for her and her motives regardless of her wrongful acts. The believability of her character forces audiences to ignore her motives. Vikander’s role as Isabel reinforces why she took home the Oscar for “The Danish Girl” last year.

Heartbreaking Realism

There are a couple inconsolable moments specifically centred around Vikander’s role. One such scene involves Isabel in the midst of a miscarriage, crying distressingly for her husband, played by Michael Fassbender, to save the dying child. Her husband reinforces the realism of the scene with his inability to save the child, sobbing at the knees of his heartbroken wife.

Fassbender plays the role of Tom Sherbourne, lighthouse attendant and husband faced with the impossible task of gluing together every heartbreaking situation in the plot. The film seems to run through Tom’s stream of consciousness. If Cianfrance was trying to push the idea of storytelling through Tom’s consciousness without narration, then Cianfrance succeeded. With Tom introspecting upon his inability to to set his sights concretely in what he believes is right, the viewer faces indecision with their personal moral compass.

An Exposed and Stoic Performance

Fassbender displays transparency as Tom, giving audiences an understanding of the pain he endured in the Great War. His exposed and stoic character seals the deal for an Oscar-worthy role. Fassbender’s desolate gaze captivates audiences as they gravitate towards Tom, laying the foundation for Fassbender’s character to communicate his feelings without saying more than ten words at a time. Fassbender displays a mastery of the icy and hopeless look that characterized the lives and emotions of the “Lost Generation” soldiers post-World War I. Tom ties an almost-perfect performance together with a rare catharsis of emotion, showcasing exactly why Fassbender should have be an Oscar winner.

The warm yet fiery heart of Vikander’s Isabel contrasts perfectly with the numb chivalry of Fassbender’s Tom. Immaculate chemistry between the two translates wonderfully to viewers, which is only strengthened by the fact they are a real couple.

One cannot talk about “The Light between Oceans” without mentioning Rachel Weisz’s role as Hannah Roennfeldt, the biological mother of Lucy, the child Tom and Isabel rescued from a washed ashore boat. Cianfrance’s trickery causes some of Roennfeldt’s most conflicting moments. Despite Hannah not committing anything overtly immoral, she becomes the antagonist for Tom and Isabel, who kidnapped Hannah’s daughter and kept her for the first four years of her life.

Unfortunately, the plot has an extremely disjointed vibe with multiple unevenly transitioned subplots. The film becomes swamped in too many scenes, sending audiences running for tissues. Every scene meant for tear-shedding succeeds. However, less sappy scenes would have reinforced similarly somber moments, augmenting them into ultra-weeping reactions.

Despite its flaws, the trio of Vikander, Fassbender and Weisz pull this film out of mediocrity and into outright Oscar contention.

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