Sunday 5 March 2017

The Light Between Oceans

‘The Light Between Oceans’ is Derek Cianfrance’s newest film, which explores how just one bad decision can lead to so much distress. Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) has recently come back from World War I and is feeling particularly numb inside. He decides to take up a temporary job manning a lighthouse on Janus Rock, an island 100 miles from any civilisation, hoping that the solitude will do him good. After the role becomes a bit more permanent, he falls in love with Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Verkander), and they quickly marry and move onto the island together.

The two have dreams of starting a family together, but it doesn’t go to plan after two isolated and traumatic miscarriages. All hope seems lost until they discover a rowing boat with a baby on board, and a decision is made that changes their lives forever.

I really enjoy films that make you think and ‘The Light Between Oceans’ is certainly one of those. We’ll probably all agree that the decision regarding the baby was a terrible one, yet it’s after this all happens that the conflict really starts to set in. The situation is one that I’d never really thought about before but I found myself questioning considerably – are genes really more important when it comes to who owns a child, or is it more about who the child has been raised by? There’s also a lot of contact between Tom and Isabel – they are so well-matched for each other, and yet the thoughts going through their heads are very different.

One of the issues I had with the film was that we didn’t get to know Tom and Isabel well enough. It didn’t so much affect my ability to emphasise with the couple, but I just wanted to know more about them. Their backstories, and more of the little moments they shared together both before and after the decision. So much focus was on the main plotline that they just didn’t feel as developed as they could have been.

Despite the emotionally difficult topic it’s strangely not too gritty or overbearing - as well as a tragedy it’s also a romantic film, showing us both the blissful beginnings of love and the sad events that had to follow. However, when certain morbid scenes are explored it presents them in just the right way – Cianfrance tackles the sensitive subject of miscarriage particularly well. There are some specific scenes that are hard to watch, but it doesn’t fluff them up or avoid them like other films have been known to do, which I found to be a really notable aspect.

I was also blown away by some of the shots – beautiful landscapes focused on the secluded island of Janus Rock and its expansive waters. Its visual emphasis gives you a real sense of the loneliness and the pain that Tom and Isabel begin to feel. The pacing was generally quite slow-moving but it didn’t feel overly long, even at 132 minutes. If you like films that tackle difficult subjects yet you also like the romantic side of film, then ‘The Light Between Oceans’ is an essential viewing. 


Hannah Read

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