Film: “The Light Between The Oceans”; Director: Derek Cianfance; Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Florence Clery, Jack Thompson, Thomas Unger, Jane Menelaus, Garry McDonald, Bryan Brown and Leon Ford; Rating: ****
Some stories just touch your heart and this is one of those. “The Light Between The Ocean”, is an old-fashioned, romantic melodrama adapted from M.L. Stedman’s 2012 released novel of the same name.
With a morality theme that states, “When people cross the lines, they need to face the consequences,” it is a sad story about a childless couple who find a baby.
But what elevates this film is its desolate tone and trappings. Tom Sherbourne, a stunned survivor of World War 1 returns to Australia and before taking up the post of a lighthouse keeper in a small island between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, he falls in love with Isabel (Alicia Vikander). They get married and set up home on the beautiful and picturesque island.
But life has not been kind to them. After a few years of a lonely stay on the island, one day as “deus ex-machina” (God’s answer) to their woes, a dinghy washes ashore with a crying baby and a dead man. Instead of alerting the authorities, the couple decide to bury the man and raise the child as their own. They christen her Lucy.
Years later, the couple discover the girl’s biological mother, Hannah, who has been fraught with grief ever since. How they react to the situation and what they do, forms the tale’s crux.
The film belongs to Michael Fassbender. He lives in the skin of Tom Sherbourne. With natural ease, he internalises his character and fully communicates the inner struggle of his guilt.
He is aptly supported by Alicia Vikander as his wife Isabel. Their on screen chemistry is palpable. She is downright luminescent and dives deep into all of her character’s varied and heightened emotions. There are many scenes where she brilliantly shines. But the most striking of all is when she realises she is going to have a miscarriage and is helpless. The sight is heart wrenching without being over-dramatic.
Rachel Weisz as Hannah, is equally convincing. She gives a powerful performance as the fragile, distraught mother on the verge of a breakdown.
Florence Clery as their young daughter Lucy Grace is charming. Her cries, when torn between the two mothers, is what makes you reach out to her.
Writer-director Derek Cianfrance, who has earlier delivered films like “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines”, once again masterfully weaves this ethical drama that keeps you enraptured. The narrative, which meanders at a languid pace, transports you to the place and era. The last act which hurriedly wraps up the tale does not do justice to the flow.
Visually, the look and feel of the film is simple and realistic. The landscape is beautifully exploited and the period created by production designer Karen Murphy along with Erin Benach’s striking costumes captured by Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography, are rich and rewarding. And so is Alexandre Desplat’s lavish score which tugs at your heartstrings and compliments the visuals.
Overall, this skilfully and sensitively handled film is sure to make you dab your eyes.