Film review: THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, from ‘Built For Speed’

The slow moving but deceptively powerful drama The Light Between Oceans features one of the strongest casts seen in an Australian film with Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Jack Thompson, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown and Gary McDonald.

Michael Fassbender plays Tom a man traumatised by his experiences in the First World War who, in 1921, seeks solace through a new role as a light-keeper at the Janus Rock lighthouse off the coast of Western Australia (although this film was shot in Tasmania and New Zealand). His desire for isolation subsides when he meets Isabelle (Alicia Vikander) the daughter of local school master Bill (Gary McDonald). Tom and Isabelle’s seemingly idyllic life on the island turns to tragedy when Isabelle’s two pregnancies result in still born babies. A maritime mystery seemingly delivers them an amazing gift but it plunges them into a moral dilemma that also envelopes a grieving mainland woman (Rachel Weisz).

This film is a visual treat with Adam Arkapawa’s crisp cinematography and director Derek Cianfrance’s compositions providing stunning vistas of windswept Tasmanian beaches and clifftops. The film occasionally veers toward romantic cliché with the extremely attractive couple framed by glowing sunsets but it never becomes cheesy.

While the film has a restrained tone there are some very emotional and even distressing scenes particularly those involving a young girl whose life has been thrown into disarray.

Michael Fassbender is compelling despite his unemotional and slightly grim visage. Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz are typically excellent in more emotionally fraught roles. Of the two Aussie veterans, Gary McDonald and Jack Thompson, McDonald delivers the more impressive performance evoking troubled emotion beneath a stern facade. By contrast, Thompson, who plays Tom’s close friend Ralph, portrays his character as a clichéd salty old sea dog.

The film’s generous length, leisurely pacing and restrained tone will have action junkies recoiling like Dracula from sunlight but fans of exquisitely shot, tastefully acted drama will be entranced.

Screening at: Cinema Nova.

Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Romantic drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Derek Cianfrance’s.

Release date: 3rd Oct 2016.

Running time: 132 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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