“They gave me a pile of books,” said the director. “I looked through them and there was a book called ‘The Light Between Oceans,’ and I thought, ‘That’s a pretty cinematic title.’ Cracked it open and started reading it, and it’s about this light keeper, which is a very cinematic job.”
But how cinematic is this adaptation of the M.L. Stedman novel? Eh, good enough I guess. It’s certainly not the ideal date movie, and may not even be the ideal “girls’ night out” type of movie either. I guess it’s as good as a “turn of the century” type story can be about a veteran widower who lives on a lighthouse island with a woman who lost both her brothers to the Great War.
Let me tell you, it appears quite promising at first with its stunning views of the horizon and the clear eye the two good-looking leads have for each other. It may even look great on paper when you read that their main issue in marriage is the coincidental discovery of a baby abandoned along with a dead body in a boat. It may sound like great philosophical debate when their issue becomes whether to raise the baby themselves or find the baby’s rightful owner. But instead, The Light Between Oceans gives an unemotional delivery that is unfit for the big screen for any reason besides drawing in readers of the novel.
The film features only two actors for the majority of the time, two highly-acclaimed newcomers Michael Fassender (12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina). If I were the director, I probably would have cast someone else; but I don’t know who, as the characters were not defined richly enough to make me care. I’m not saying their performances were bad at all, they did as much as script and direction allowed. The problem was their chemistry, and the amount of time taken to show their love for each other, which is both too much and too little.
Right after the couple‘s first meeting, they exchange long-distance letters that eventually led to their marriage and residence at their lighthouse home. A drawn-out amount of time is spent on their giggling, kissing, beard trimming, and time under the bedsheets, but none on making us actually care or notice the quality of their performances.
I think what hurts the two leads the most is the way the camera envelops their story together on and off the lighthouse island. There are many stunning views of the oceanside, especially at the magic hour. It captures the quiet aloneness of the island against the frightening sounds of the roaring ocean waves, so what went wrong? Anytime the camera was not on a landscape view.
When there are actors on screen, pleasing lighting arrangements are instantly ruined by atrocious aperture settings that spin out of focus and wobble all over, giving you the experience of seasickness without the need to go for an ocean venture. As a photographer with six years of experience, I could tell that there was some masterful camerawork wanting to get out, but it’s too overly manipulative with its motion sickness as well as its blaring window backlights and distractingly questionable edit patterns.
I am not a fan of these types of British Oscar-bait movies that try way too hard to be dramatic. I’m not all in for slow-paced movies that linger on all the wrong moments, challenging me to stay awake through the third act. But if this type of movie doesn’t bother you, then it is probably harmless enough. There’s certainly a fantastic story and movie if you’re willing to dig deep enough, but The Light Between Oceans is still an easily forgetable study of who-knows-what that not even an Alexandre Desplat score can make more engaging.
As an added word of caution, you’ll need some extra patience as it comes to the end. It abuses the “multiple- endings“ more than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King did.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Erbland, Kate. Why Derek Cianfrance Sees ‘The Light Between Oceans’ as a Companion Piece to His ‘Blue Valentine’. IndieWire. WordPress, 30 Aug 2016. Web. <http://www.indiewire.com/2016/08/derek-cianfrance-interview-the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-1201721263/>.
I The Light Between Oceans spelar Alicia Vikander mot pojkvännen Michael Fassbender, och filmen verkar riktigt bra! Digital image. Miss Marie. Blogger, 31 Jul 2016. Web. <http://miss-maries.blogspot.com/2016/07/sondagssvep-31-juli-2016.html>.
The Light Between Oceans. DreamWorks Pictures. Web. <https://www.dreamworksstudios.com/films/the-light-between-oceans>.