The Light Between Oceans has pretty much every cliché you’d find in a Nicholas Sparks movie: two lovers, the sea, death, letters, and more than enough melodrama to go around. All that’s missing is a kiss in the rain. Unlike The Best of Me, The Longest Ride, or The Choice, though, this is a tearjerker that mostly works. Despite its cheesy, contrived moments, the film is elevated thanks to some first-rate performances, beautiful production values, and a plot that keeps you emotionally invested.
Despite its cheesy, contrived moments, the film is elevated thanks to some first-rate performances, beautiful production values, and a plot that keeps you emotionally invested.
Based on the bestselling romance novel by M.L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans sets itself towards the end of World War I. Michael Fassbender gives a powerfully understated performance as Tom Sherbourne, a humble lighthouse keeper. He has a strong marriage with a woman named Isabel, played by the equally exceptional Alicia Vikander. The couple wants nothing more than to bring a child into the world together. Alas, carrying a baby to full term proves futile. God seemingly answers their prayers when a rowboat washes up to shore with an infant girl and dead man inside.
Rather than alerting the authorities, Isabel convinces Tom to keep the baby and name her Lucy. Tom immediately falls in love with the child, but starts to have reservations upon discovering her mother is still alive. Rachel Weisz turns in especially empathetic work as Hannah, Lucy’s birth mother. Overcome with guilt, Tom struggles to figure out what’s best for his daughter, what’s best for his wife, and what’s best for the grieving Hannah. It’s an impossible situation that’s bound to end in heartache.
So as you can tell, the story sounds like it’s right out of a soap opera. To the film’s credit, however, it’s a gripping, entertaining soap opera that you can’t look away from. Watching The Light Between Oceans, you rarely know where the narrative is going. Will Lucy stay with Tom and Isabel or will she be reunited with Hannah? If Lucy is returned to Hannah, will she ever be able to forget about her adoptive parents? While their decisions might be questionable, these are all good people that deserve to find happiness. If only they could find a solution to their complicated circumstances.
A gripping, entertaining soap opera that you can’t look away from.
Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz are all fantastic across the board. Director Derek Cianfrance of Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines delivers yet another visually interesting picture, featuring some breathtaking scenery and lively cinematography. Do the performances and craftsmanship compensate for all of the film’s shortcomings? No, there are still a lot of forced plot developments and a couple needless flashbacks involving Hannah’s late husband. Nevertheless, the actors sell every emotion and it’s hard not to get sucked in by Cianfrance’s engrossing screenplay. It might be a total guilty pleasure. If you wish Guiding Light were still on the air, though, The Light Between Oceans just might fill the void in your heart.