The Light Between The Oceans Review
by E. Stevens
‘Although her character was redeemed somewhat by the end of the film, I felt this could have been explored slightly further.’
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander & Rachel Weisz
Synopsis: War veteran Tom moves to the lonely island of Janus to take up a new position as lighthouse-keeper. He falls in love with local girl Isabel, but when they adopt a baby who is lost at sea, their lives begin to fall apart.
Review: Tom Sherbourne, a war veteran, is given the opportunity to become the new lighthouse-keeper of Janus not long after the end of the Great War. He falls in love with local free-spirited Isabel, and they soon get married and move to the lighthouse together. However it soon appears Isabel’s spirit is being crushed after several miscarriages that cast a cloud over the young couples’ life. One day, a boat washes up on the island containing a dead man and a seemingly new-born baby who has miraculously survived. In her longing for a child, Isabel persuades Tom to pass off the baby as their own daughter. But when the girl’s biological mother enters their lives they must make a huge decision about the future of their family.
Even though some scenes were touching, this film in general was not my favourite. I felt that there was not enough chemistry between the two protagonists, and this was partly due to how quickly the plot moved at the start. Isabel and Tom only had one short scene together before they were suddenly getting married, which didn’t leave any time for their relationship to properly develop.
Isabel’s character also leaves the viewer with mixed feelings. I did empathise with her greatly after her miscarriages, these scenes were some of the best in the film and were completely heart-breaking. However, she became quite unlikeable the more the story progressed. Even though it is understandable how badly she wants a baby, Isabel basically forces Tom into keeping the girl instead of handing her in to the authorities, without a thought for her potential biological mother. Even when Tom takes the blame for her when their secret is eventually discovered, she only resents him for telling the truth and doing the right thing. Although her character was redeemed somewhat by the end of the film, I felt this could have been explored slightly further. Despite this, the film does effectively show how complicated family situations can become, but I think many viewers would agree that Isabel was not a totally innocent character.
Even though some plot points were rushed and I actually found Hannah and Frank’s backstory far more engaging than the Sherbournes’, the cinematography was beautiful and several scenes were heartfelt and emotional. Viewers who enjoy historical fiction and romance may enjoy this film, but personally I would not watch it again.
The Light Between the Oceans is currently streaming on BBC iPlayer and was rated a 12 by the BBFC.