Review Friday: The Light Between Oceans

Happy Friday. Today begins a new endeavor for myself: to write a book or movie review every Friday. I decided to do this in order to keep this blog fresh and new when I don’t have a travel article to write.

A rainy, quiet Friday in the end of March seemed like the perfect time to begin this new chapter of my blog.

Today I will be reviewing:

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans is based on the 2012 novel by M.L. Stedman, and stars Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz. This dramatic film takes place off the coast of Western Australia, in the 1920s, post World War I.

The movie is interesting to me in that they spend a lot of time building to what seems to truly be the main plot. Yet this works, creates atmosphere, and lets the audience get to know the two main characters. (Unlike in, say, the movie Allied, where to me the first chunk did nothing to further the story)

A trauma ridden, quiet man, Tom moves to Janus Rock to become light keeper for the lighthouse on the remote island.  A visit to the main land allows him a chance to spend time with a local young woman, Isabel. There’s an immediate connection, and for the next several months the two exchange letters frequently.

Of course the two are married, and Isabel joins Tom on his beautiful, if sometimes hostile, island. For a while they live in comfortable bliss, until one night a huge storm hits, and Tom is forced to spend the night up in the lighthouse, unaware that Isabel has gone into labor too early. She loses the baby.

But that doesn’t stop them from trying again. Their happiness is quieter this time, still tinged with sadness. Once again, Isabel gets fairly far in her pregnancy, until one day she goes into labor far too soon. The baby is lost, and Isabel is overcome with sadness and despair.

One day, a rowboat appears, in which the couple find a dead man and an infant. Isabel fears the baby will simply be shipped off to an orphanage, and convinces a very reluctant Tom to bury the man without reporting it, and keep the baby, claiming it’s their own.

On a visit to the island to christen their new daughter Lucy, Tom comes across Hannah Roennfelt, at the grave of her husband Frank and her daughter Grace Ellen, who were lost at sea the same day Lucy was found. It can’t be coincidence, and Tom finds himself writing a letter out of guilt.

Three years later, Tom and Isabel are visiting the main land again, and discover that Frank had been trying to escape from the German prejudice of the town, and that’s how he was lost at sea. Feeling the weight of his conscience, Tom sends Lucy/Grace’s old rattle to Hannah, who brings it to the police. One of the local men recognize the rattle as Lucy’s and report Tom and Isabel to the police.

At last the truth comes out, and Lucy/Grace is taken from her parents and given to her real mother. The rest of the story is poignant and powerful, and to say any more would ruin it for all of you.

This movie is one I immensely enjoyed for several reasons. The first is simply the cinematography. Every scene is shot gorgeously. Atmosphere drips from the screen, and so often a shot with some well timed music and the actor’s faces are all we need to understand the emotions and thoughts of the characters. The shots used for 20’s Australia are breathtaking, and it’s a place that could I travel back in time, I would.

Even more important, I love the plot. And not just the plot, but how it’s handled. There are no easy answers in this story. It seldom falls prey to cliches, and no matter how flawed someone’s choices are, they are not turned into a villain. The motivation is clear, and each character sympathetic. Without telling you how the movie ends, let me say that the ending is very well done, and realistic in a way I wasn’t sure would be in a romantic drama.

I watched this movie on the way over to Berlin. I always enjoy watching new things on the plane because I’m a captive audience, and new stories keep me more engaged. I’m very glad I watched this film, and I would reccomend it to anyone who enjoys period dramas. My only caveat would be don’t excpect much about history, or anything like that. It’s very much the story of Tom, Isabel, Hannah and their daughter. And that’s a good thing.

If you’re looking for a drama in the early 1900s full of love, grief, and hard choices, check out The Light Between Oceans. 

 

 

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