It’s only fair to start this review by saying that I enjoy uplifting films, ones that make you feel good when you leave the theater. I never go out of my way to see anything that looks too sad, unless there’s an inspiring message behind the emotional turbulence. And so it stands to reason that if Disney was not distributing Dreamworks’ The Light Between Oceans, I would never have seen it.
Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander star as a couple who run a lighthouse on a tiny island in post-World War I Australia. With very little time on the mainland, the newlyweds try unsuccessfully to have a child. So when a boat finds it’s way to their island with a dead man and a live baby, the couple decides to keep the child and raise it as their own. But years later, a visit on land finds them face to face with the child’s birth mother, causing a rift between morality and happiness.
Based on a novel by M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans tells a story about how what seems like the right thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do. There’s a consequence for every action and even the characters who get what they wanted only to discover that it’s not what they expected. Billed as a romance drama, there is very little romance to be found in this heartbreaking piece by director Derek Cianfrance.
Making its debut at the Venice Film Festival, The Light Between Oceans comes at what is usually the beginning of Oscar season. And while I would be surprised to see it nominated for Best Picture, it would not be farfetched to expect its three leads to be recognized for their powerful performances. The marketing goes out of its way to point out that all three have either been nominated before or won the gold statue (Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz).
Vikander’s miscarriage scenes are difficult to watch and hard to forget. That on top of her emotional separation from her child make her an easy contender for best actress. Fassbender’s moral veteran offers a more subdued performance, but his part gets meatier towards the end of the film. But if there’s one actor who might have a chance at winning anything, it’s Rachel Weisz in her supporting role. Her desperation to reunite with a child who doesn’t recognize her as a mother is so heartbreaking and her understanding of Vikander’s character is so touching.
The Light Between Oceans is an extremely well-made film and all involved have perfected their craft. However, the story and the message are not uplifting or inspirational and this is not my kind of movie. If you enjoy sad films, then I highly recommend this film and caution you to bring tissues to the theater. For everyone else, Finding Dory is back on the big screen this weekend.
I give The Light Between Oceans 2 out of 5 silver rattles