Is The Light Between Oceans worth the emotional trauma? This movie review will give you the details:What should have been a mildly soapy tearjerker turned into a depressingly cruel picture that made me want to bolt right out of my seat. The Light Between Oceans places emotionally damaged people in tough situations where the fate of a child has to be painfully decided. The only problem is that in order to buy into this sob story, you have to ignore the unshakable thought that these characters placed themselves in this very terrible situation by choice.
At first everything is peaches and cream for the quiet Tom (Michael Fassbender) and the chipper Isabel (Alicia Vikander). Tom is a World War I veteran that decides to reside as the lighthouse keeper off an Australian coast. He warms up rather quickly to Isabel and it isn’t long before they’re married, spending their days together on the secluded island to maintain the lighthouse. But when they desire to become parents, their efforts are met with two painful miscarriages.
Then one day a boat washes up on shore with a dead father holding his crying baby daughter. How would a normal person respond to such an incident? They’d send a Morse code message back to land that they found a body and baby; perhaps the baby still has a mother that she could be returned to. In fact, that’s exactly what Tom wants to do, despite being more hopeful he can adopt the child, as the mother seems out of the question.
But for the child-desperate Isabel, her tearful answer is to bury the dead body of the father and raise the little girl as their very own. No matter how many times Isabel convinces Tom that this isn’t wrong, it is so insanely wrong that it’s baffling how such a scenario could continue.
And for the rest of The Light Between Oceans, we await the inevitable, but with drama that is both limp and disgusting. It isn’t long before Tom discovers the child’s true mother Hannah (Rachel Weisz) is very much alive and incredibly depressed about losing her husband and daughter. The right thing to do would be to tell her that you found her baby. Then again, the right thing to do would be to tell the authorities that you found a baby and a dead body. The wrong thing to do is send letters and toys to the mother to assure her that her child is alive as if you’re a creepy kidnapper demanding a ransom.
Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander are both great actors, but even they can’t save this script. Fassbender appears almost entirely one note as a depressed and devoted man, only breaking his mumbling silence to briefly act like a silly dad. Vikander only has two settings of either being smilingly gleeful or clinically depressed. We’re supposed to care about their characters with their passion and plight, but I never reached that point with their romance. There is rarely much guilt associated with either of them, only slightly displayed and never capitalized. Their happiness is seen through bits and pieces of montages while their sadness is mostly filtered through silence, dead gazes and a few tears. They don’t exactly earn the redemption they seek and receive by the third act.
Surprisingly, the best actor in this drama was the child named Lucy by Isabel and Grace by her real mother Hannah. Her performance feels natural and perfectly conveys the innocence of a little girl’s imagination and sheer heartbreak for having her fake mother torn away from her. My heart broke for this little girl who is going to have one messed up childhood for being raised in such an awkward and ugly situation.
But her character is mostly kicked to the curb by the third act as we focus more on the relationship of Isabel and Tom. Why should we care about them when they obviously don’t care that much about the child’s well being? If they truly felt so strongly about this girl, they wouldn’t have even claimed her as their own and sought out her mother to begin with. And, you know, not cover up her real dad’s death.
Rachel Weisz’s character Hannah should be appalled and distraught by such an ordeal, but ultimately ends up forgiving Isabel and Tom after a few weeks. This is a woman who has lost her daughter emotionally and had her husband’s dead body hidden from her; this isn’t exactly something that can easily be forgiven in such a short time. She’s the far better woman in comparison to the insane couple.
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