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‘Light Between Oceans’ (review)

Produced by David Heyman, Jeffrey Clifford
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Screenplay by Derek Cianfrance
Based on the book by M. L. Stedman
Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander,
Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson

You should definitely see this film if:

1 . You loved the book

2.  You love the cast

3.  You are dying to see the movie that brought real-life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander together

4.  You just love lighthouses

But if none of those reasons apply, then best skip this middling melodrama.

What you think of this film will largely depend on whether you can get past the ridiculously contrived central premise: A childless lighthouse keeper and his wife living on a remote island find a baby that miraculously washes up on shore in a rowboat. The baby is the perfect age to pass off as the woman’s own, who just lost her second child, so that when they decide to keep the child and bury the dead man in the boat with her, no one is the wiser. Eventually, the husband’s conscience gets the better of him once he learns who the real mother is, leading to heartache for everyone involved.

The novel was a New York Times best-seller and perhaps this plot works better in a book. Unfortunately, it’s a flimsy basis for a film that runs more than two hours.

The cinematography by Australian D.P. Adam Arkapaw is beautiful, with gorgeous shots of the ocean and the remote, windswept island. The actors —- Michael Fassbender as the lighthouse keeper Tom; Alicia Vikander as his wife, Isabel; and Rachel Weisz as the child’s real mother, Hannah — are all great. But the story is simply not compelling enough to sustain a feature film.

We see Tom and Isabel’s courtship, marriage and their heartbreak as they lose two babies in a row. We can understand Isabel’s desire to keep the child, who seems heaven-sent. And we also understand Tom’s reluctance to keep the child’s true identity a secret, especially once he spies Hannah grieving at the gravesite of her husband and child when Lucy (as Isabel names the child) is brought to the mainland to be christened and meet her “grandparents” for the first time.

He starts a chain of unhappy events in motion when he foolishly writes an anonymous note to Hannah that her child is “alive and well.” Eventually, Isabel’s deception is revealed and both she and Tom face jail for their crime.

The story seems to be building to a desperately tragic outcome for one or more of the players — surely someone will fling themselves off a rocky cliff or be drowned or simply die of sorrow. Instead, the story limps along with outright tragedy averted and everyone ending up more or less okay.

In the end, you might have been momentarily moved, but you’re far more likely to wish you’d spent the last two-plus-hours doing something much more worthwhile.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars 
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