The Light Between Oceans

This movie reminded me of the old film on Michelangelo entitled The Agony and the Ecstacy. The only difference is you want to take out “the Ecstacy”.

the-light-between-oceansHere is the ultimate contradiction concerning Director Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans. It is a fabulous film starring great actors that focuses on a life journey filled with depression and heartache. Like last year’s The Room, it is a film that I would recommend while simultaneously admitting that I could never watch it again.

It begins in 1918 when a battle scarred veteran of World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) returns home to Australia. He gladly accepts a job as a watchman in a lighthouse on an island devoid of any other human being, and he relishes his isolation.

Upon returning to the mainland for a short meeting, he falls in love with Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a young woman suffering her own agony after losing two brothers in that hideous European conflict. They quickly marry and return to the island where they hope to raise a family.

The only real joy in this movie is found from the relationship of this couple, and it is helped by both actors’ tremendous talents as well as the fact that they are a couple off screen. Watching them embrace is reminiscent of old movies with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

However, after two tragic miscarriages, a boat washes up on shore with a dead young man and a very much alive child. Tom wants to report the incident to the mainland authorities while Isabel convinces him to keep it secret so that they can raise the baby. While they prove to be a great, loving family, you know that tragedy waits in the shadows.

That tragedy is in the form of Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz), identified as a grieving mother who lost her husband and child at sea at about the same time the boat washed up at the lighthouse. Her agony rekindles the regret felt by Tom, and the truth gradually seeps out, creating a nightmarish emotional explosion.

The movie is close to 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and it seems much longer. You end up sitting in your seat thinking, “God, let this agony stop.” A child thinks the wrong, caring woman is her mother while rejecting her actual mother. A devoted husband and wife lose each others trust, and you gradually realize that this movie cannot have a happy ending.

While I know this film is based on a very popular book, readers must have found comfort from a story focusing on human misery. Regardless, there are few actors working today more capable than Mr. Fassbender, Ms. Vikander and Ms. Weisz, and it is to their credit that this movie succeeds in probing the depths of human loss.