Review: ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Is Adrift

Jacqueline Gualtieri ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Although it devolves into a world of soap opera and stereotypes, The Light Between Oceans manages to be an endearing film with a deep and complex storyline. Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) became a lighthouse keeper when he returned home after World War I and he decided that he needed the isolation. Instead of finding isolation, he found Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), who becomes his wife and lives on the island with him. After miscarrying their first two children, Isabel discovers a baby girl on a dingy near the shore and convinces Tom to raise her as their own.

The chemistry between Tom and Isabel cannot be denied and they do come across as a beautiful family with their baby girl, Lucy (Florence Clery). It’s Tom, though, who discovers that Lucy’s mother, Hannah (Rachel Weisz) is still out there and is desperate to have her child back. It’s Tom that ultimately makes the final decision on what’s right.

Michael Fassbender and Florence Clery in The Light Between Oceans. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Fassbender comes across as cold at first and the audience gets to watch him change as he finds his family. He does look like a kind and fun father every time that he’s on screen with Clery. Throughout the film, he grows as a character. He seems so broken and ready to give up in the beginning and it’s family that gives him a new life. He wants to be a father, but his wife, who he would do anything for, came first and foremost. He struggles so much and you can see the battle being waged in his head between doing what’s right and doing what will make his wife happy again.

Clery herself does an amazing job as Lucy. Sometimes it’s difficult for such young child actors to truly connect with the audience but it’s hard not to fall in love with her. Your heart breaks when she cries and you constantly just want what’s best for her.

Alicia Vikander in The Light Between Oceans. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

The biggest weaknesses of the film are Hannah and Isabel, unfortunately. Hannah occasionally comes across as a broken wife and mother and you truly feel for her, but for the most part, she almost seems greedy. She seems to be too worried about being dignified, to the point that she doesn’t seem human. For all that she’s been through, Hannah would have a right to be emotional and it would have allowed the audience to really connect with her pain. Instead, she almost comes across as too composed to the point of cold. As much as she has a right to be with her child, she comes across as selfish because her child does not want to be with her.

On the other hand, Isabel is anything but cold or composed. Instead, she just seems rather unhinged. It’s hard to feel for her because she doesn’t seem stable at all. It’s horrible that she lost two children, but she stereotypically becomes this somewhat baby-crazy woman. The only things we really know about Isabel are that she kind of plays the piano and that she wanted a lot of children. She’s barely a character at all. She’s a shell that’s filled with thoughts of babies. In comparison to Tom, who also lost two children, she’s remarkably weak, selfish, and petty. Maybe we were supposed to feel sympathy for her, but it’s hard to imagine how.

Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

It might not be fair to blame either Weisz or Vikander for their character’s issues on screen. The writing was clearly subpar throughout the movie. The conversations throughout the film were not believable and several times a character said something that was most likely supposed to be deep and meaningful and the audience actually laughed. It was unfortunate to hear. A film with such a sad and beautiful story deserves a script that does the plot justice.

The Light Between Oceans is a tragic story that could have been a real tearjerker. While it is touching, it’s difficult to imagine the audience really shedding tears over it. Crying comes from sympathy and connection, both of which the film was lacking in. Maybe if Hannah was a little more human or if Isabel was a little less selfish, the audience would truly feel the emotions the story was trying to evoke.

Overall Rating: C

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