Review: ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Is a Terrific Tearjerker
Movies| | By Robin Milling
Michael Fassbender, straight from the sci-fi blockbuster X:Men: Apocalypse, takes on the role of another anti-hero in The Light Between Oceans. In the aftermath of the years following the Great War, Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender), a shell-shocked veteran is awarded the job of a lighthouse keeper, living and maintaining the shining beacon in the middle of nowhere off the coast of Western Australia. Based on the popular 2012 novel by M.L. Stedman, the film is expertly adapted and directed by Derek Cianfrance. His long, sweeping shots of the vast locale deftly convey the feeling of Fassbender’s isolation to the audience.
Sherbourne is not alone for long when he meets Isabel Graysmark, a vivacious young woman across the harbor played by Fassbender’s real-life love Alicia Vikander. Graysmark is well beyond the manners of the time, aggressively pursuing Sherbourne. The couple connect through the ancient art of letter writing until he can’t live without her and they promptly get hitched, relying on the good, old-fashioned ways of love-making to become better acquainted with one another.
Surprisingly there is tremendous chemistry between Fassbender and Vikander, as real romances rarely translate to the screen. In one scene, Graysmark lovingly shaves Sherbourne’s mustache; an idea decided on that day of shooting.
“The idea came to me that it would be more comfortable for her to kiss him without the mustache and it just seemed like one of those things you work together as opposed to someone on their own. Alicia thought it was a fun idea,” Fassbender revealed at a New York press conference this past July.
Vikander playfully added, “He only bled a little!”
Cianfrance, who is known for his realism, put his cast and crew through authentic island living prior to shooting the film so they would feel adept to their remote surroundings.
He recalled, “We found a lighthouse that was appropriate, but it was on this peninsula, an hour and 20 minutes on a dirt road to get there. I was asking these guys, ‘Do we really want to drive on a dirt road in the dark for an hour and a half two times a day?’ No. So we just lived there. It was a gift. Michael said, ‘We’ll give it one night. Maybe two nights.’ And then it was like, ‘Okay, let’s do one more night’ and then pretty soon it was like, ‘Do we have to leave?!’”
The award-winning Fassbender and Vikander, both superb in their roles, are an easy match to root for as they try again and again, albeit unsuccessfully, to make a family. Miraculously they discover a baby in a rowboat adrift in the ocean alongside a dead body. Deciding to raise the child is a choice that will lead to devastating consequences.
Bring lots of tissues to this terrific tearjerker. The Light Between Oceans is in theaters Friday, Sept. 2.