The Light Between Oceans is fifteen minutes shorter than Captain America: Civil War, yet it feels longer than the ultimate edition of Batman v Superman. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, just a slow one. Like Derek Cianfrance’s previous film, The Place Between the Pines, your enjoyment will be dependent on buying into the premise and becoming absorbed by the story, which in this case is nine minutes shorter.
Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbenber) takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Island, located off the west coast of Australia. Way off. I mean it takes hours to get there.
Prior to leaving for Janus, Tom meets Isabel Greysmark, (Alicia Vikander) and there is a spark between the two. Eventually, they get married and have a nice life together as man and wife. As with any melodrama, complications set in. Isabel has a miscarriage; and then another. Soon after the second one, a rowboat washes up on the beach. In the boat are a dead man and a live baby. Isabel convinces Tom not to file a report, and they proceed to raise the child as their own.
When the Sherbournes return to the mainland for their scheduled leave, Tom discovers a headstone at the church cemetary bearing the names of Frank Roennfeldt and his daughter Grace. The pair were lost at sea, and when Tom reads the date, he realizes that Grace (now called Lucy) is the baby from the boat. Tom is overcome with guilt, and wants to tell Lucy’s mother, Hannah, (Rachel Weisz) the truth.
It all sounds like something you would see on Lifetime, but The Light Between Oceans is far better than that, and far less camp. The cimematography by Adam Arkapaw is breathtaking, but when the locations and actors are so attractive, it’s kind of hard to screw it up. Some reviewers say that Alexandre Desplat overcooked the score and made the audience try to feel weepy, but I don’t often notice the score the first time I watch a movie, unless it’s the only thing in the sound mix.
Speaking of sound, I think The Light Between Oceans should at least be nominated for an Oscar for sound mixing. When you watch as many comic book, science fiction, and other types of blockbuster films as I do, I often take sound for granted. I know the sound of weapons firing, buildings falling, and spaceships flying will be nothing less than perfect. I also know that a Transformers movie will be an all out assault on my ears–and the other senses as well.
In The Light Between Oceans, it’s the quiet moments you notice. It’s like how the musical notes you don’t play are often more important than the ones you do. I enjoyed sitting in the theatre and listening to the waves and the rain. It’s weird how people will listen to a recording of a storm in order to relax, but being caught in an actual storm can be terrifying.
The Light Between Oceans is based on the novel written by M.L. Stedman, which I started reading before I saw the film, but finished afterward, because life got in the way. As is usually the case, there are differences between the two, and I cannot say which version I prefer. But with the book, I could read as fast or slow as I wanted.