Friday, September 2, 2016
The Light Between Oceans
Returning from the horrific war zone of World War I in 1918, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) lands a solitary job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island in Australia. Before he heads out for the job, he meets a young woman Isabel (Alicia Vikander) who instantly locks her eyes on him. They fall madly in love after a corny conversation about the future during a picnic. Soon after exchanging a love letter, they get married so that Isabel can come and live with Tom on the isolated but magnificently scenic island. Although this setup may take a leap of faith to believe in, the genuine chemistry between the two on screen leaves us with little doubt about the plot.
Unfortunately, after two miscarriages over the course of four years, Isabel is grief-stricken and desperately yearns for a child. One day, a small boat is washed to the shore with a dead man and an infant girl inside. Isabel is immediately attached to the child and cannot let the girl out of her arms. Despite the guilty feeling, Tom gives in to her tears and her plea to keep the girl. They name the girl Lucy and raise her as their own.
The family's life cannot be happier until one day they run into Hannah (Rachel Weisz), a widow who mourns the loss of her husband and her daughter. Now Tom and Isabel are forced to face the consequences of their earlier action.
The director Derek Cianfrance is well known for brilliantly exploring the relationships among his characters such as in "Blue Valentine" (2010) and "The Place Beyond the Pines" (2012). He has the amazing ability to orchestrate terrific ensemble performances from his actors that capture the heart and soul of his stories. Even though his usual collaborator Ryan Gosling is absent from this film, the casting of real life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander proves to be a fantastic choice in telling this engrossing and heartfelt story. It's often hard to tell if the couple is acting or simply showing their true feelings toward each other. They are both convincing and arresting, despite the occasional lack of strokes in the script regarding character development. Furthermore, Rachel Weisz deserves another Oscar for her heartbreaking portrayal of Hannah.
When two beautiful people like Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander appear in front of a breathtakingly gorgeous landscape, you wish the ocean breeze not only dry off their tears but also blow away their sorrow—they are so likable that it seems unbearable to see them suffer. That's also the little trick this movie plays and it doesn't shy away from being sentimental.
Despite being related to a similar subject matter, unlike Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda's "Like Father, Like Son," (そして父になる 2013 ), this film doesn't focus on the moral or ethical aspect of raising a child and being a family. Instead, the director zooms in at what he does the best—exploring the profound emotions among his characters, especially between Tom and Isabel. That makes this film a great date movie, even though you might end up weeping with the characters.