A World War I veteran (Michael Fassbender) arrives in Australia to take charge of a lighthouse, but soon finds himself in love with a young woman (Alicia Vikander) and marrying. Whilst on their secluded island, a boat drifts ashore with a baby and a dead man aboard. Instead of turning the child in, they decide to raise it on the island.
rguably Derek Cianfrance's most well-known film, Blue Valentine was able to found beauty in the everyday and understood how a relationship between two people can - without warning - fall away from one another. The Place Beyond The Pines, meanwhile, dealt with the often fragile relationship between fathers and sons, again with a simple and lush artfulness that made for a deeply emotional story. The Light Between The Oceans, however, seems like it was directed by an entirely different person to the one who made Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines.
assbender's muted, restrained performance is fascinating to watch and shows how he is able to internalise conflict and only let it seep out in small doses when it services the story. Likewise, Vikander's charm and likeability is infectious and you really do want these characters to have a life together. As mentioned, Weisz is the standout performance here because although she may be seen as the antagonist, wouldn't anyone do the same if their child was missing and found again? That central conflict, between Fassbender's sense of morals, Vikander's belief of what is best for the child and Weisz's desperation, is the central drive of the story and makes for some of the most emotional beats of the film. Yet, there is always a sense that it's all slightly too predictable for its own good. There is no way that any of this is going to end well for anyone; so it feels like it's being needlessly maudlin and focusing on the weepy moments to tug at the audience's heartstrings.
ianfrance's innate ability to find a warmth and gorgeous little moments in the everday is taken away because of its period setting. There's a sense that Cianfrance wants to make a widescreen David Lean-inspired story, but instead it just comes off as wheel-spinning in certain scenes and moments; like he's purposefully letting a moment hang in the air to pad out the film. It really does look beautiful and the use of colour and production design is great, but it feels like he's lost his way somewhat. As well as this, the third act commits whole hog to the melodrama and it almost contorts itself into a Nicholas Sparks-esque novel by the finale - thus taking away from what came before it all.
verall, The Light Between The Oceans is a reasonably effective romantic drama that has some effective performances from Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz especially, but is let down by an overly melodramatic script that's just a little too safe and predictable.