Movie adaptation of Australian author M. L. Stedman’s novel, The Light Between Oceans is a war drama that explores grief and love in a time during which it was easy to lose someone and finding love was a luxury not anyone could afford.
Set right after WWI, the story focuses on Tom Sherbourne, a soldier who, after seeing many men die during the war, decides to start his new life as the lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of western Australia.
Soon after accepting his new position he meets and falls in love with Isabel, the young daughter of one of the families living in the town closer to the mainland.
Their marriage is a happy and simple one, however, Isabel can’t wait to be a mother. After a series of miscarriages, both Tom and Isabel are giving up on their dream to have a big family. However, Isabel is the one who is having a harder time in accepting her fate. Until one day a boat with a baby girl washes up the shore.
Tom is ready to report the accident, aware that someone might be looking for the baby and the body of the dead man in the boat. But Isabel, guided by grief for her loss and newfound happiness for this miracle, convinces him to ignore his duty and keep the baby as their own.
Their happy moment, however, is not destined to last long when, after a visit to the mainland, Tom discovers who his baby girl really belongs to and her real story.
Directed and written by Derek Cianfrance, the light between oceans explores with tenderness life during war.
The cinematography is breathtaking. The panoramic shots of the lighthouse island capture both the raw beauty of nature as well as the isolation felt by the main characters living by themselves. The sequences used to show the passing of time through Isabel’s pregnancies are fluid and they make the pace of the story a bit faster.
The soundtrack, entirely composed by Desplat, accompanies the story with a mixture of poignant and emotional tunes, giving a more dramatic tone when it’s needed.
Michael Fassbender’s performance was heartbreaking and terrific. He understood Tom’s sense of duty as well as his blind love and loyalty for his wife. His character is a man looking for peace after witnessing the brutality of war. He founds happiness with his wife and he will do everything for her, even sacrifice his integrity.
Alicia Vikander did a good job in portraying Isabel’s grief and determination with honesty. Her performance wasn’t always consistent and in some scenes she seemed a bit over the top, but she truly understood Isabel’s desperation and fragility. However, unfortunately, their chemistry seems off throughout the story. At first it seems understandable because Tom and Isabel got married without really knowing each other. However, the more the story went on, the more it felt like the two actors were unconformable with each other toning down the emotional side of the story which is a big part in the movie.
Luckily, at the end they were both committed to stay true to their characters and their affinity blooms on screen. Rachel Weisz’s talent was undervalued by giving her character a small space in a story in which she was pivotal as well. However, even though she is not in many scenes, every time she is on the screen her performance is flawless and impeccable.
Thanks to a soulful and moving soundtrack, a cast committed to the story as well as their characters and a cinematography that focused on capturing all these strong emotions, the light between oceans is a film that successfully brings to the screen a heartbreaking tale about grief and love in a time in which it was necessary to learn how to let go without losing one’s soul.