Alicia Vikander Michael Fassbender Rachel Weisz
Beautifully filmed in Australia and New Zealand, with rich musical accompaniment, artfully framed cinematography, and superior actors, The Light between Oceans promised to be an outstanding film. Unfortunately, it falls short in its story line, such that I began to think of it as “Light (truth) between oceans of bad decisions.” It was good in its premise of presenting a Solomon’s dilemma about mothers and a baby. The problem here is that half of the dilemma was the result of a poor decision when truth should have been the primary consideration. Yes, people do make bad decisions based on emotional concerns, but once insight comes to bear, and errors are compounded by guilt, we can expect all hell to break loose.
Tom (Fassbender) has fought in the Western Front of WWI for four years, and when he returns home to Australia, he decides he would like the isolation he would be afforded if he becomes the keeper of the Janus Rock Lighthouse. He meets with the locals and is quickly offered the job (the previous caretaker left under troubled circumstances, which the townspeople attribute to the long periods of isolation his job entailed.) Tom, who is unassuming and seeming to carry a load of survivor’s guilt, is untroubled by this, and looks forward to it.
Much to his surprise, a local beauty named Isabel (Vikander) has an immediate crush on him, and after an afternoon picnic asks to see the lighthouse. But, he says, the only other person allowed there is the wife of the caretaker. Well, then, “Marry me”, she says. After brief correspondences, they do decide to wed, and spend blissful months in an idyllic setting, until tragedy strikes in the form of miscarriages.
They seem to be coping reasonably well with their grief when a surprise washes ashore. It’s a boat with a baby inside—and a dead body. Tom is prepared to go with protocol, report the death and apply to adopt the child, but Isabel sees this as a gift from God and pleads so earnestly, Tom doesn’t have the heart to deny her, and thus begins a heartbreaking series of fateful decisions, the consequences of which begin when, after two years of being away, they go to town and discover a hard truth.
It’s likely that most people who see The Light between Oceans will thoroughly enjoy it. Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz are gifted actors who mesmerize when they’re on screen, and the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw is worth going to see just for his artistic renditions. The same for Alexandre Desplat’s music; he never seems to fall short. The movie is based on the highly successful novel by M. L. Stedman.
A Soloman-like dilemma with an unnecessarily dissatisfying resolution.