PG-13  |  132 min  |  Drama, Romance
Review - Matt Mungle

*In theaters September 2nd 2016*

SynopsisA lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.

Review: Powerhouse acting performances and an emotional script make THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS one of the first all around Oscar contenders of the year. Granted, award worthy does not always translate to perfect film and this one is not without faults. But to forgive and embrace is easier than resenting it for the few mistakes along the way.

Tom (Michael Fassbender) is a quiet war veteran longing for the solitude his new job as Lighthouse Keeper will offer. But when he falls in love with Isabel (Alicia Vikander) it shines an even brighter light on his reason for living. The two yearn for a family of their own but are having a hard time seeing that dream fulfilled. When a stranded row boat washes up on shore it holds what could be an answer to prayer or the one thing that could eventually tear them apart. 

The story is based on the novel by M.L. Stedman and adapted for the screen by director Derek Cianfrance. It is an emotional masterpiece of deep rooted love and the pain of loss. Many of those feelings are captured wonderfully by Cianfrance as his cast deliver heart stirring performances. Each frame perfectly grounds the viewer in the moment. Whether hanging on the soft spoken dialogue or getting lost in the breathtaking scenery; the film masterfully invites the viewer into the life of these two lovers. 

Vikander won the Academy Award for her role in The Danish Girl and could easily repeat with her performance here. There is no doubt that she is the most talented younger actress on the roster today. We have seen her take on lighthearted action, intense Sci-fi, and romantic period roles. In this one she shows that no one is better at emotional drama. As Isabel we watch her transition seamlessly from a bright-eyed young woman smitten by the new man in town to a devoted wife ravaged and broken by horrible circumstances. In each characteristic there is no sign of acting but only pure realism and honorable depiction of the character she is entrusted with. 

Fassbender too is no stranger to accolades and is a perfect onscreen partner for Vikander. Tom is a man of very few words but strong convictions. Traits far easier to convey in a book than on the screen. Fassbender makes it look easy as he emotes through body language and eyes that speak far more than words could. You believe immediately that Tom and Isabel are in love and that helps to elevate the tragedy and strong emotion that follows. 

As mentioned this is not a perfect film and many will find the meandering start and lack of palpable energy concerning. Yes it is beautiful to watch but be aware that it is painted with very slow brush strokes. What makes the pace even more disjointed is how much the film tries to cram in the last 30 minutes. We spend nearly two hours walking with this couple and as soon as we understand their rhythms we are thrown into a quick barrage of clipped, staccato events. Instead of spreading these out over the length of the film to organically evolve the climactic moments are far too abrupt. It is almost as if the filmmakers were lost in their lovers eyes, looked up at a giant clock, panicked at how much time had passed, then tried to tell the rest of the story as fast as possible. That quick exit is an unfair decision after encouraging us to care so deeply for the characters. 

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content. All adult content is beautifully portrayed in the realm of the marriage bed. Of course the thematic material is intended for older, mature audiences. Though PG-13 those under 16 would find this torturous to view. It is a perfect option for an adult date night and for those who love watching the art of dramatic acting in its finest form.  Beautifully shot and expertly performed I give it 4 out of 5 tear drops.

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