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The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans

Released 1 November 2016
Director Derek Cianfrance

Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz. Florence Clery, Jack Thompson, Thomas Unger
Writer(s) Derek Cianfrance
Producer(s) David Heyman, Jeremy Clifford
Origin United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States
Running Time 133 minutes
Genre Drama, romance
Rating 12A

The lighthouse family.

I really wish I had read M.L. Stedman's novel The Light Between Oceans before watching the movie adaptation - I would have been able to unceremoniously throw the book out of the nearest window. Short of storming the projection booth and flicking the off switch, such a satisfying gesture just wasn't possible in the movie theatre. Instead, I had to sit through sentimental tosh of the highest order; a film whose narrative scoffs at sense and embraces the ludicrous.

Michael Fassbender plays a World War I veteran named Tom Sherbourne. Tom has seen things that no man should see; we know this from his hundred yard stare and distaste for light conversation. Having decided he wants to live an isolated life, Tom takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Western Australia. This planned solitude hits a snag when Tom falls for Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) on the mainland and after a whirlwind romance, they marry and set up home out on the island. For what seems like an eternity for the viewer, they frolic around in the surf backed by an incessantly swirling Alexandre Desplat score (you know, to show us how perfect their life is) until Isabel falls pregnant. Sadly, Isabel miscarries two babies and falls into a deep depression (signalled by the fact that her perfect hair is suddenly all bedraggled).

Now we come to the crux of the matter. One day a rowing boat drifts onto the beach, carrying a dead man and a baby. Tom wants to report the matter to shore but Isabel, who has clearly lost all grip with reality, thinks they should keep the child. Isabel wins out and years later their actions come back to haunt them as they meet the child's mother back on land (Rachel Weisz). Now, I'm all for the suspension of disbelief but in terms of narrative clarity and character development, none of this makes a lick of sense. Director Derek Cianfrance attempts to mix fable and realism and the result is as successful as mixing oil and water. Why would Isabel not have recognised the man in the boat – as a German living in a small town in Australia, he was quite the local celebrity. Didn't either of the couple think that maybe the baby had a mother somewhere in the vicinity? And more simply – a baby floating miles from land, just as a woman is recovering from her second miscarriage?? Come on!!

It's all so incredibly silly that I had no emotional attachment to these (quite unsympathetic) people. Add to that the cheap device of using a letter from beyond the grave to squeeze a few extra tears from more sentimental viewers and the result is infuriating. Watching this film was like being tarred and feathered with treacle and dried lavender – unctuous, sickly sweet and unpleasantly cloying.

- Linda O'Brien