This is my review of The Light Between Oceans [DVD].
Traumatised by his experiences of World War 1, guilty to have survived, too repressed by a strict upbringing to express his emotions, Australian Tom Sherbourne escapes to the solitary role of lighthouse keeper on Janus Island. His loneliness heightened by the isolation of its bleak beauty, he decides to accept the bold suggestion of marriage made during a very brief acquaintance by the warm, impulsive Isabel Graysmith, carried away by a romanticised view of life as a lighthouse keeper’s wife. Beneath her vibrant exterior, she is very vulnerable, fragile and immature. Already suffering the loss of her two brothers in the war, the blow of two pregnancies ending in miscarriage brings her to the point of mental break-down. At this point, an unexpected event brings an opportunity for happiness, but raises an intense moral dilemma, and considerable possible long-term costs.
Michael Fassbender and Alician Vikander play powerful, intense leading roles, with a strong supporting cast. The photography of the sea and rocky shoreline in different lights and weather conditions – rarely without wind – is very striking. The screenplay retains the impression of having been created from a novel (Australian best-seller of the same title), which may have led the film to seem too long, with a few scenes which might have been better omitted. It is consistently and unashamedly a tear-jerker. There are some implausible aspects to the plot. Despite all this, it explores quite sensitively the complexity of the human problems of handling guilt, coming to terms with grief, taking responsibility for one’s actions, casting blame and demonstrates the power, both positive and negative, of love.