The Light Between Oceans: The pain and joy of life and love

November 5, 2016


The Light Between Oceans (M)
Rating: 4 / 5


Choices and consequences are part of the human condition, and in The Light Between Oceans we see how disastrous the results of a major decision are for Tom and Isabel Sherbourne.

Suffering shell shock from The Great War, Tom (Michael Fassbender) gladly becomes a lighthouse keeper in Western Australia.

He soon meets and marries Isabel (Alicia Vikander) an empathetic and sympathetic listener, and at first it’s a life of freedom and joy for the couple, but the isolation takes its toll when Isabel miscarries two babies in three years.

Then a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a live baby, shortly after Isabel’s second miscarriage, and she persuades Tom that this baby, who they name Lucy, can be theirs to raise. Against his better judgment, Tom agrees not to notify authorities.

So far the story sounds a little like that of Moses in the Bible, but as the film progresses, unforeseen complications and dilemmas result from this secret adoption.

Time passes, and Tom accidentally stumbles upon Hannah (Rachel Weisz) visiting the gravestone of her German husband Frank and baby daughter, lost at sea. The penny soon drops for Tom, and he is tortured by the fact that they have taken another woman’s baby. Eventually he confesses how Lucy came into their lives, setting off a chain of tragedy that affects all concerned.

And that’s the fascination of this film—it’s not a matter of good or evil, but of the choice that Tom and Isabel make, which fits their desperate emotional needs and enhances their lives.

The characters in the film are genuinely good souls, who commit the sin of being human, and suffer some gut-wrenching consequences. But there is a satisfying ending so you leave the cinema marvelling at the resilience of the human spirit.

Performances are superb, from the leads down to the smaller roles. Jack Thomson as salty sea captain Ralph combines playing a typical Aussie knockabout bloke with a tenderness of spirit. 

As Hannah’s father Septimus Potts, Bryan Brown has a small but vital role, in a scene with Lucy, played by English toddler Florence Clery—a natural young actor with incredible charm. 

Veteran Australian actors Garry McDonald and Jane Menelaus deliver satisfying performances as Isabel’s loving parents. Menelaus in particular is a delight—while not as well-known as her actor husband Geoffrey Rush, she is a fine actor whose presence always enhances a film.

Background music and cinematography are superb, with gorgeous locations in remote areas of New Zealand and Tasmania. 

Director Derek Cianfrance sums up the movie perfectly. ‘It’s about love, truth and the secrets people keep in relationships, and what happens when those secrets are exposed to the light of day—it’s a moral drama, but at the core, it’s a timeless love story.’ Indeed it is. 

Highlight: Breathtaking cinematography and excellent performances
Red flags: Mature themes and one mild sex scene


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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