Review: The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans doesn’t pack the same punch as other pieces of sentimental cinema, says

Image: DreamWorks

Image: DreamWorks

★★☆☆☆
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz
Running Time: 2hr 12m
Rating: 12A

Going into a film directed by Derek Cianfrance, I was expecting a weepy but tender and heartfelt film that so consistently dominate the screen, like Blue Valentine. However, The Light Between Oceans lives up to its cliché name. It can be described as another stereotypical romantic drama, with a predictable plot and the unnecessary typical cheesy score associated with this particular cinematic niche.

As an adaption of the much-loved novel by M. L. Stedman, the film remains true to the original source. It’s a story about Tom, a World War I veteran, and his wife Isabel, an isolated couple who tend to a lighthouse off the Australian coast, and their struggle to start a family of their own. However, one day a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a newly born baby inside. The film centres around the couples’ choice to keep and raise the baby, or whether to notify her mother on the mainland who believes her to be dead.

The film’s main strengths lie with its esteemed cast, including Michael Fassbender as the subdued Tom and Alicia Vikander as the often-despairing Isabel. Both actors provide convincing performances which gives the film some credibility, despite the often tongue in cheek dialogue. Their obvious chemistry allows their characters to become relatable, people who make the wrong decision for the right reasons.  Another noteworthy performance is that of Rachel Weisz, who gives a convincing portrayal of Hannah, the baby’s birth mother. Unfortunately, her scenes often get overshadowed by the film’s excessively exaggerated drama, particularly in its third act. Despite this, all three of these actors were enjoyable to watch, providing memorable and possibly award winning performances. The cinematography in the film is also quite impressive; it captures the serenity of living on the beautiful Island. The downside of this is that importance is placed more on making the film look pretty, rather than believable and realistic.

However, regrettably, their efforts are hindered by the a slow pace and a plot which would feel more at home in an afternoon soap. Its main agenda appears to have been to create as many tear-jerking moments as possible, whether they be appropriate to the story or not. While this was done effectively, it limits the films audience and takes away from many heartfelt moments between the actors. Cianfrance tries to create as much drama as possible, which leads to contrived moments and illogical decisions. The main issue with the film is its lengthy run time, with little plot to fill it. The first hour of the film consists of several broad shots of the beautiful island from different perspectives, or the actors looking longingly into the distance or out into the ocean.  In short, most scenes in the film felt like filler moments to build on about an hours’ worth of plot, which created a melodramatic effect. Another distracting feature of the film is its score, which often overpowers the scene, particularly during the climax of the story. I also felt that the trailer unnecessarily ruined several of the surprises the film had to offer, as it revealed scenes from major character moments in the story.

Overall, I felt disappointed by the film. Despite mesmerising cinematography and fantastic actors who elicit sympathy from the audience in every scene, the film lacked any of the magic and intrigue particular to this sort of picture, which created a simple by the numbers romantic drama with very few memorable elements.

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