The Light Between Oceans – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

November 2, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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The idea of the place where two oceans meet is both romantic and exciting. Writer and director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, Place Beyond the Pines) has based his film on the eponymous bestselling novel by M.L. Stedman.

Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) returns to Australia from The Great War in 1918. He is shattered in mind and spirit, ready take on the role of temporary lighthouse keeper at remote Janus Island, off the coast of West Australia where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.  He relishes the prospect of peace and solitude.

Before his posting he meets young and spirited Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) and after a pen and ink courtship they marry.   Janus Island is windswept and barren but the sturdy cottage and lighthouse becomes home and they are happy in their own world. After Isabel loses a baby before term she becomes wan and listless and their idyllic peace is broken.

When a rowboat deposits a dead man and a crying baby on their island, she begs Tom for the chance to rear it themselves and he reluctantly agrees.  Tom takes his duties to report all incidents very seriously but his scruples are overcome by his love for Isabel and he registers the birth of the foundling as their own, thereby setting the stage for heartbreak and tragedy.

Even if you have read the book – and I haven’t – the ultimate outcome might still cause a few tears. I found the film’s depiction of the era’s mores to be its strength. The couple’s deep love for each other along with Tom’s strong sense of honour ties the story to its time.

Fassbender . who is amassing a diverse body of work,is completely at ease in Tom’s skin. Vikander is, as she was in Testament of Youth, luminous as a woman who has known great loss. You know she has suffered greatly when she asks Tom if she can still be a sister when she has lost both brothers in the war.

Rachel Weiz is haunting as grieving widow and mother Hannah Roenfeldt and local stalwarts Jack Thompson, Gary McDonald and Bryan Brown play important minor roles.

Beautifully filmed by Adam Arkapaw along with finely articulated performances, this is an engrossing look at our past.

4.5/5 2016 Rated M 133mins Released November 3

Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz

Written and directed by Derek Cianfrance  Based on The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw



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