On a remote island off the coast of Western Australia in the aftermath of World War One, a lighthouse keeper and his wife make a fateful decision after a rowboat holding a dead man and a live baby washes ashore.
Based on ML Stedman’s bestselling 2001 novel, old-fashioned weepie The Light Between Oceans boasts lush photography, a sweeping score and a stellar cast, yet its determined assault on our tear ducts doesn’t move us as much as its makers clearly hoped.
There’s nothing wrong with the acting. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander’s combined screen charisma could easily power the lighthouse by itself. Fassbender convinces us of the stoic vulnerability of his shell-shocked veteran of the Western Front, while Vikander vividly conveys the desperate maternal longing that leads the couple to pass the child off as their own. As the third part of the story’s dramatic triangle, the tormented biological mother of the baby in the boat, Rachel Weisz does a terrific job, too.
Yet as good as the actors are they can’t persuade us to buy the story’s melodramatic contrivances. The film’s symbol-laden setting, suggestive of rocky loneliness and storm-tossed emotions, only adds to the sense of manipulation. Director Derek Cianfrance’s previous films, his 2010 blue-collar marital drama Blue Valentine and 2012 crime thriller The Place Beyond the Pines, blazed with life. By comparison, The Light Between Oceans lacks the lustre that would make it special.
Certificate 12A. Runtime 133 mins. Director Derek Cianfrance