Review: The Light Between Oceans
By the time I saw The Light Between Oceans, available on streaming but released three years ago, it had been long enough for me to forget the ubiquitous reveal in those immediate reviews – “this one might make you cry”, or similar. And I sure did. But, read on.
It’s 1918 Australia, and the First World War is just over, leaving gaping holes in families and shell-shocked veterans lucky to be alive, such as town newcomer Tom Shelbourne, played by a mesmerizing, mustachioed Michael Fassbender. Seeking calm, he takes a job as a lighthouse keeper, a location found a significant boat ride from the small community where he appeared, hat in hand. Before he departs, the mayor invites him to dinner and thus he meets the only surviving child in the house, Isabel, a lively, captivating presence in the form of Alicia Vikander.
Fassbender shines in The Light Between Oceans
They fall in love, marry, and she joins him on the lonely island, and then… well, in case you don’t recall the plot of Derek Cianfrance’s beautifully shot film, or the 2012 novel by Australian author M.L. Stedman, I’ll leave the major plot twists there. I’ve already tipped you off, as beautiful as their rocky ocean front paradise is, things do not go perfectly.
Not too many characters to digest here, but all are driven by loss, and love, and what love means to them.
Life imitates art
There are moral choices to be made, but in the build up, the heart of the film is the relationship between the married couple. Fassbender and Vikander sell this tender partnership, and if watching them fall in love, and deal with how life goes, is at any point in doubt, we are watching them fall in love for real. They married in 2017.
Both protagonists in The Light Between Oceans are fleshed out people. Tom’s war years are written on Fassbender’s face. He is mesmerizing in his stillness, he makes Tom’s methodical work habits seem therapeutic and his love for his wife palpable. Isabel’s early high spirits are a youthful compensation for the smothering sadness of her grieving parents, and Vikander shows her maturity as the island changes her.
Fate intervenes and choices will be made. Not everything works in the story, but The Light Between Oceans will have you pondering what they will choose to do, what you would do. Besides having a good cry.
More Reviews from Martina O’Boyle
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.