Thoughts on The Light Between Oceans (2016)


The movie takes place over about a 25 year period. It begins with Tom (played by the fantastic Michael Fassbender), who becomes a lighthouse keeper after the war. There he meets Isabel (played by the stunning Alicia Vikander), they fall in love and long for a baby; but after two miscarriages, a baby washes up on shore. Instead of reporting the incident, they decide to keep the baby for their own. Life gets complicated when Tom discovers the baby’s mother, Hannah (played by Rachel Weisz).

The movie is quite slow. It’s kind of like life really … if you were living on a deserted island with nothing to do. It feels like a long movie – and at over two hours, it is. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just that nothing much really happens. They live their boring little lives and there’s not much action or drama or anything in between.

I mean, yes, there is conflict, but is more of an inner struggle, and not easy nor necessary to portray on screen – but I can understand why it would make such a good book, considering it’s based on the novel written by M.L. Stedman. There’s only so much brooding and looking worried towards the camera that one can take!

The movie visually appears to have quite a low budget. I’m unsure if this is due to it being filmed in Australia (like most Aussie films, the quality isn’t usually the greatest) or if it is due to something more. I never felt like this took away from the film, being that the film in set in the 1900s, I actually felt like it added to the classic period of the film. Being an Australian, it was also quite neat seeing local Australian actors. I’m glad that many Australians were used, instead of numerous actors trying and failing at nailing our accents.

All of the main characters are Australian in the movie, even though none are actually Australian. I found the accents to be a little bit hit and miss and at times I didn’t know where the main characters were meant to be from – but then again, I never felt like it was that important to know where they were from at all. Otherwise, great performers all around. I particularly enjoyed Anthony Hayes, as Sergeant Vernon Knuckey.

I did however like that the light is also a metaphor. Of course, The Light Between Oceans references the lighthouse in the film – but I think it also plays on many conflicts. It certainly plays on that inner struggle/the light of Tom doing what is right for his wife and Hannah/oceans. It references Lucy-Grace, the light/child between two opposing families/oceans, the right vs wrong, good vs evil. It’s clever.

The ending is sad but perhaps not in the way you’re expecting. I’m not going to spoil it, but the ending surprised me. If you’re after a true-to-life tear-jerker, you should enjoy this. It’s not going to be for everyone. It has a bit of an arts house, independent flick than anything else. I haven’t read the book, so I have no idea how it compares.

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