The Light Between Oceans is the kind of prestige picture you expect when you get into the fall season. It’s got two good performances by two prestigious actors and a lovey-dovey nature that can occasionally appeal to the Academy, sometimes even winning with films like Shakespeare in Love.
Actually, Shakespeare in Love is a good comparison because The Light Between Oceans is not a very good film.
The film stars Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherbourne, a World War I vet who gets hired to watch a lighthouse. Along the way he falls in love with a local girl named Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), whom he marries in 1921. Isabel gets pregnant twice, but miscarries both times. Lucky for them, a baby and a dead man show up in a row boat. They decide to take the baby as their own, but when Tom realizes who the baby’s mother is (Rachel Weisz), we know it’s gonna be hard to keep the baby away from her.
Performances are the thing that draws people to these kind of movies, and the performances are almost always good, as they are here. Vikander in particular pulls off a subtle sadness. Fassbender, as well as Weisz in a supporting role, both keep the movie going through their natural charisma. The director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines) gets good performances out of all his actors as well as having a good, subtle style that works in conjunction with the slow-moving story.
And when I say slow-moving story, I mean slow-moving story. The beginning drags by trying to develop an interesting relationship, which doesn’t quite work. The dialogue doesn’t have much charm; most of the time, it just feels tedious. We get you want the characters to fall in love slowly, but the conversations here don’t develop that relationship well enough. It doesn’t help that the film has a melodramatic aspect to it.
There are montages of Tom and Isabel being in love with each other frequently in The Light Between Oceans, and each one is quite boring; they all tell you similar things (these people are in love) without adding something new. They just serve to increase the running time unnecessarily.
I’m having trouble remembering what else to tell you about The Light Between Oceans because I’ve forgotten almost all of the film. It’s boring melodrama that has been done better multiple times. I saw the film a month ago and barely remember anything about it; in a year, I’ll try to remember it again and will fail to visualize anything except Fassbender and Vikander with their faces tightly against each other, along with a cheesy score playing underneath. So just imagine that and you’ve seen the movie.