The Light Between Oceans, or as I keep calling it – The Light Between Oscars – was once quite buzzy, tipped to give its star Alicia Vikander another shot at Best Actress after she lifted the trophy for The Danish Girl in 2016.
It’s based on a very popular work of historical fiction – the global bestseller by M.L Stedman. An Australian serviceman, Tom Sherbourne, returns from WWI. He marries Isabel (Vikander), and they go and live in his remote lighthouse.
After Isabel suffers two harrowing miscarriages, a lifeboat with a dead man and a squalling baby washes ashore.
A hesitant Fassy lets his young wife keep the baby and raise her as their own. Things then take a Hardyesque twist when Fassy stumbles across Hannah (Rachel Weisz) weeping beautifully beside a memorial at the church where the Sherbournes are holding their child’s christening.
This is, I think, the first big studio film by Derek Cianfrance, director of the indie hit Blue Valentine (which I skipped – Ryan Gosling does my head in).
Light is a melodramatic, sweeping romance but Vikander is so intense, and the premise so far-fetched, I wondered if it would veer off into psychological horror, with the lighthouse and the baby manifestations of the character’s break with reality.
Apart from that early, creepy suspense, there’s nothing else to save the movie from being, well, a bit overwrought really, with an ending that felt badly rushed.
Rachel Weisz is surprisingly – given her character’s predicament – soft, a gentle undercurrent to the lighthouse couple. Fassy gives a very reserved, stoic performance as the traumatized veteran, while the new Lara Croft Vikander is a storm to be reckoned with once again.
As husband and wife, they have an interesting chemistry and are quite contrasting onscreen. Vikander is still such an ingénue it looks like Fassbender might have plucked a child bride from the sea. He’s a rarefied thespian; she’s raw and tumultuous.
By all means, I think people should see The Light Between Oceans, just for all the talent on board. It is probably the most beautiful film of last year, with its stunning seacoast and the stark lighthouse interiors. You could Instagram the living daylights out of it.