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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Light Between Oceans (2016)


Even when you think you’re alone, you never really are.

After experiencing all sorts of horrors and tragedies in WWI, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) is looking for a little time away from the rest of the world, so that he can relax by himself and soak up what life has given him. So, he’s given the job of a lighthouse keeper which, for awhile, is a job he quite enjoys. Though he’s seemingly all by himself for some thousand miles, he doesn’t mind it and embraces it every chance he gets, regardless of what storms may come his way. But one day, while back in town for a little vacation, he meets the lovely and blissful Isabel (Alicia Vikander), who instantly wants to marry him. And yes, they do, but there’s a bit of a problem: Isabel seems incapable of giving birth. While it seems like their marriage may be in trouble, somehow, a boat carrying a man and a baby comes docking near the lighthouse. While the man is dead, the baby isn’t, and now, Tom and Isabel finally see their opportunity to have that one family that they’ve always wanted. Meanwhile, while they are with this child, the baby’s real mother (Rachel Weisz) sits at home, in heartbreak, not knowing where her child is, or if she’s even alive.

With a movie like the Light Between Oceans, you really have to be prepared for a lot. A lot of emotions, a lot of happiness, a lot of sadness, a lot of beauty, a lot of good acting, a lot of dread, and well, a lot of a lot, really. That seems to be the case for mostly all of Derek Cianfrance’s films – both Blue Valentine and the Place Beyond the Pines take place in all-too real where everyone’s sad, everything bad happens, and there’s only small bubbly moments of happiness. And then, yeah, it’s gone and everyone’s back in the dumps as if the sun never shone down on them.

So majestic and beautiful. Oh yeah and the ocean, too.

So majestic and beautiful. Oh yeah, and that ocean, too.

That said, there’s something compelling about watching this kind of sadness that makes Cianfrance’s flicks watchable, or at the very least, interesting.

In no way are they ever considered “entertaining”, or better yet, “fun”, but they’re definitely worth watching, because there’s a great deal of attention and craftsmanship that comes with his direction and his style. While Blue Valentine will probably remain his best no matter how hard he tries, Pines and this one, both seem to working in the same territory, but on different planes. Technically, they’re both epics and they’re both pretty long (despite this one probably being 20 minutes shorter than Pines), but they also approach love, destiny and happiness in a different manner; the former was much more about how family precedes everything and here, it’s about how family makes you who you are, whether it’s blood or not.

Then again, maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m totally stretching and trying my hardest to seem “deep”, but regardless, it’s worth saying that the Light Between Oceans is quite an interesting watch, where love seems to bliss and all sorts of different ways the plot can tell itself and unfold seem to pop-up, but then, it becomes to be a bit much. For one, the plot definitely unravels into some pretty dark, almost disturbing places, that only result in more and more misery for everyone involved. Which is normally fine for a short, hour-and-a-half indie, but here, we have a movie clocking in at two-hours-and-12-minutes, meaning we deal with a lot of sadness, for a really long time.

Mommy's not lookin' so great.

Mommy’s not lookin’ so normal.

Sure, we get the beautiful and lovely specimens like Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, and Rachel Weisz to watch as they navigate throughout this weepy, overly dramatic material, but there comes a point where it becomes too much. Cianfrance definitely loves to live in these sad tones and moods that feel as if he’s never got around to trusting anyone in his life, let alone, the world, but it also feels like he does it just for the sake of doing it. Granted, the material he’s working with isn’t his (it’s adapted from M.L. Steadman), but it still feels like it’s tailor-made for him, if only due to the fact that it never quite brings any insight into its depression and sadness.

In a way, it’s just sort of saying that all of this heartbreak and utter remorse is inevitable.

And if that is the case, then what’s the point? With Blue Valentine, it seemed like Cianfrance was trying to depict a failing romance, less as a way of showing how the world and love works, but just how two different people work when they fall in love and experience romance together. Here, Cianfrance seems to just revel in the fact that these two lovebirds’ lives may possibly be tarnished and ruined forever, for the sole sake of keeping a story going and going.

While it may sound like I’m totally raining down on the movie’s parade, I really am not. It’s hard to look away from a movie like the Light Between Oceans, where almost every single sweeping shot of a landscape is as beautiful as the next and starts to feel like a postcard after awhile, but it’s also hard to really get invested when there’s so much doom and gloom, without any light or joy at the end of the tunnel. We get some of it with Vikander and Fassbender’s all-too-real chemistry together, but that’s about it and it’s probably not entirely the movie’s fault for them working so well together.

So what else does that leave?

Consensus: Despite its gorgeously beautiful cinematography and strong performances, the Light Between Oceans never quite connects on an emotional level and after awhile, just feels like one sad event happening, over and over again.

6.5 / 10 

Someone call Child Services already! They're clearly too happy to be a real family!

Someone call Child Services already! They’re clearly too happy to be a real family!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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6 responses to “The Light Between Oceans (2016)

  1. filmsCine September 2, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    I’m really excited to see this. I picked up on the very sad, desolate vibe you talk about from the trailer. Maybe I’ll watch it when I’m hungover.

  2. godtisx September 4, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I wonder what him and Justin Kurzel are doing differently (Macbeth/The SnowTown Murders)? They’re both tackling dark material, but Justin’s is a guilty pleasure somehow. What do you think?

  3. Courtney Young September 5, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    Great review. I had kind of been anticipating this one, but it seems to have fallen to the waist side for many due to the lackluster reviews. Oh well.

  4. dbmovies September 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

    The emotions, actors, the book it is based on – because of all these things I had such high hopes for this film. In my pre-view I gave it 7/10 predicted score – what bothered me from watching the trailer is that the actors are trying at emotions too hard.

  5. Evan Crean September 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    You’re right. There is a lot going on in The Light Between Oceans. Mostly downer stuff and too much of it in my opinion. It spends way too much time on the period before the discovery of the baby, considering how much more drama you could mine from that. I agree that there’s solid craftsmanship here: great acting, excellent chemistry, tremendous music, superb costumes, and beautiful cinematography. My main beef with the movie is that it brings up a lot of fascinating themes, but doesn’t explore them to their potential. Everything feels too cursory.

  6. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBScores: The Light Between Oceans, Morgan and Earlier From The Year

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