The Light Between Oceans (2016) (Blu-Ray Review)

The Light Between Oceans (2016)


The romantic melodrama The Light Between Oceans comes to Blu-ray today, so get out your Kleenex and prepare yourself to be moved (and just a little bored) by the trials of a lighthouse keeper, his wife, and the choice that changes numerous lives in a small town in Australia.

Michael Fassbender is Tom Sherbourne, a traumatized World War I vet who becomes a lighthouse keeper at Janus Rock, off the coast of Western Australia. He falls in love with Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) and together they build an idyllic but isolated existence at Janus. After suffering two miscarriages, Isabel despairs of ever having a child. Then a boat is washed up on shore, containing the body of a man and a very much alive baby girl. Isabel convinces Tom not to report the boat so that they can keep the child as their own. But that’s not the end of the story, of course, when Tom thinks that he’s come across the girl’s real mother Hannah (Rachel Weisz).

The Light Between Oceans is in the best traditions of romantic melodrama – it wouldn’t be out of place in 1930s cinema, probably starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne (actually, they did make a similar film called Penny Serenade). The film allows the complexities around the trauma of loss and the sacrifices people make for those they love to come to the fore without laying too much blame on anyone. The drama feels unforced, once you’re willing to accept the somewhat unbelievable and romantic notion of a baby literally being washed up on the shore and taken in by a childless couple. There are no real villains, but people living at odds with each other, manipulated by circumstance and coincidence and affected by the choices of others. It would have been easy to vilify Hannah, or to force Isabel into the wrong, but both women are wrenched apart by their mutual love for a child and their personal tragedies.

There are elements that strain credulity, however, with at least one questionable plot complication that is both necessary to what follows and is unreasonably forced. Once that is gotten over, the film moves along cohesively enough, but I confess that I continued to come back to that point, wondering whether the novel on which the film is based succeeded in eliding over this issue with greater success. The moral complications of Tom and Isabel’s decision are dealt with carefully, although there are moments when the film threatens to tip over into soap opera territory. A secondary theme that could have been handled with greater complexity are Tom’s issues with faith – as the final act of the film proceeds, this becomes an important point, yet was never really elucidated or developed earlier in the film.

The Light Between Oceans boasts beautiful cinematography and this Blu-ray release showcases that, lovingly painting the gorgeous landscapes and the close, intimate images of the actors. The extras on the disc are mostly what one would expect: an audio commentary with director Derek Cianfrance, a few featurettes detailing the film as an adaptation and the use of location and cinematography. These are interesting enough insights into the production circumstances, though they naturally don’t touch on the greater thematic complexities of the narrative. The strength of the Blu-ray is in the presentation of the film itself.

Moving and complex and a touch melodramatic, The Light Between Oceans never quite rises to the heights of greatness, but neither should it be ignored. It’s an excellent piece of entertainment, beautifully presented on the new Blu-ray, with strong performances and some gorgeous locations. An enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Author: Lauren

Lauren Humphries-Brooks is a writer, editor, and media journalist. She holds a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from New York University, and in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. She regularly contributes to film and pop culture websites, and has written extensively on Classical Hollywood, British horror films, and the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. She currently works as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

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