By Bradley Griffith
Are you tired of sequels and superheroes? Do you want a movie for adults with real human emotions rather giant explosions, fire fights, and caped crusaders? If so, “The Light Between Oceans” is the movie for you.
Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) has recently returned to his native Australia after serving four years in World War I. After experiencing the horrors of war first hand, Tom is looking for a peaceful life. He talks very little and doesn’t appear to enjoy crowds. The perfect job for Tom is that of a lighthouse keeper.
Tom jumps at the chance to be the temporary lighthouse keeper on the island of Janus. Janus is a tiny island a hundred miles off the southwest coast of Australia. The only thing on the island are the lighthouse, a small cottage for the lighthouse keeper, and the unending and unyielding presence of the sea and wind. In short, it’s the perfect place for Tom.
Tom’s perspective on life starts to change when he meets Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) on one of his rare and brief visits to the mainland. Isabel is young and pretty and has a passion for life, something that is sorely lacking in Tom’s heart and soul after his time in the war. Isabel’s smile and enthusiasm soon spark a renewed interest in life for Tom.
Before long Tom and Isabel have exchanged many letters while Tom is on Janus and the next thing you know they are married and Isabel has moved to Janus to live with her husband. It seems the ideal life for each of them.
Tragedy strikes for the young couple when Isabel loses their first baby to a miscarriage and their second baby to a stillbirth. Isabel is distraught beyond words and nothing Tom can do will repair the hole in her heart.
Shortly after the stillbirth a gift arrives from the sea. A rowboat washes up on the shore of Janus with a dead man and a small, screaming baby. Isabel convinces Tom to keep the baby as their own, despite his better judgment. The remainder of the movie deals with the consequences of that choice, especially after they discover the identity of the baby’s real mother (Rachel Weisz).
Having read the book before seeing the movie, I found it very interesting to see the people and places of the book come to life on the big screen. Even though I knew the story in advance, the film was shot in such a way as to keep me riveted to the screen. A large part of the movie is about visuals. The island of Janus and the ocean play a big part in the movie and the panoramic shots of both let you know that they are as much of characters in the movie as the people.
There’s not much action in the movie. It’s more of a character study on how each of the main characters react to tragedy and what they are willing to do for the people they love. It’s not definitely not a blockbuster, but it’s more likely Academy Award fodder when awards season rolls around.
While it’s not really a love story, or at least not your average love story, “The Light Between Oceans” is about the love between Tom and Isabel. Fassbender and Vikander are phenomenal in their roles. You can feel their joy and exhilaration right alongside their pain and heartbreak. The movie showcases two of the brightest young acting talents in Hollywood at their absolute best.
“The Light Between Oceans” is not for everyone. The story starts slowly, but once you get to know the characters, you can’t look away. The movie is profoundly sad, with many tears on the screen and in the audience. But it’s definitely worth a tear or two.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content.