M.L. Steadman’s novel The Light Between Oceans became an instant hit when published back in 2012, A classic romantic story set after the first world war which has a theme of deep rooted love, loyalty and the question of right and wrong playing on the moralistic values of an impossibly difficult situation.
Writer and Director Derek Cianfrance – known for his work with Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines – instantly fell in love with The Light Between Oceans and made it his goal to bring this tragically heartbreaking story to the big screen which saw Cianfrance frustrated in the quest for the ideal location which eventually saw him settling for the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand.
Pairing together the passionate and heart-wrenching performances of Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander in the leads almost feels like the pair were meant to play the roles. However, for all the passion and heartache Vikander plays an extremely unlikable character, one who seems incredibly selfish who can wrap her man around her little finger over almost any subject – thus leaving the audience just a tad cold towards a women whose inability to carry a child full term has visibly lead to a few mental health issues.
Tom (Michael Fassbender) is a man haunted by the devastation from his time on the battlefields of World War 1 – All he wants now is a life of isolation, so when the opportunity of a job on the remote Island of Janus Rock, manning a lighthouse comes up he couldn’t be happier. However, his plan to spend as much time alone as possible hits a snag when he meets the beautiful and vigorous Isabel (Alicia Vikander) – a young woman full of vitality and confidence who herself lost two brothers during the war.
Moving quickly through a virtually non-existent romance the pair fall head over heels in love with each other, get married and set up life in the lighthouse. Tom dotes on Isabel and when, after her second miscarriage, a boat with a dead man and a baby washes up on shore, he reluctantly agrees to pass the baby off as their own. After a few years of Family bliss on a trip into town, the mother of their child surfaces. Hannah played by Rachel Weisz is still in turmoil for her lost husband and child, Tom puts two and two together and realise their daughter is hers. Battling with his conscious he leaves an anonymous note reassuring Hannah her child is safe. What plays out next is Tom confronting the situation head on with Isabel which ends in a heartbreaking and tragic ending for a couple which through all their wrongs just wanted a loving family of their own
It really is quite surprising that both female characters played by Vikander and Weisz are portrayed as unlikable women, Vikander as a selfish and manipulative woman and Weisz – who only ever seems to have one pained expression on her face in every film she appears – seems detached as her character embarks on a number of flashbacks on her own love story with her German husband. A love affair that was forbidden by her wealthy father, these flashbacks were a reach too far and felt oddly out of place. Like the icy gushing winds swirling around the lighthouse causing the tears to fall, this weepy will get you reaching for the tissues.. just not as much as you might have hoped for.
The Light Between Oceans is out on November 1st.