From the Archives: The Light Between Oceans reviews

From the Archives: The Light Between Oceans reviews

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

LADY assures MAN that they are not doing anything wrong. MAN resists, but then LADY gets mad. MAN loves LADY, so we’re told, and since love means doing anything your significant other asks of you, no matter how deplorable, or else they’ll get mad, MAN agrees to LADY’s plan, which is inarguably wrong. Cruel even. But don’t worry, before we got here we spent about an hour with MAN and LADY as they performed voiceovers over shots of handwritten letters with ocean noises in the background. You know, like love. And because love, MAN and LADY are good people, even though they’re the worst.  The Light Between Oceans desperately wants to be a sweeping romantic tale about the lengths to which we will go in order to make the ones we love happy, but it asks way too much of its audience to get there. It’s exhausting. Derek Cheese-in-France is clearly a filmmaker of immense talent, but 2.5 hours of even the most technically proficient sweeping panoramas and close-ups of forbidden side-glances is just exhausting. His style, a mix of modern handheld composition and old-Hollywood big-face shots can be downright refreshing, but when applied to an Oprah’s Books For Mom Club entry, it’s, well … EXHAUSTING.

Michael Fassbender stars as Tom Sherbourne and Alicia Vikander as his wife Isabel in DreamWorks Pictures poignant drama THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance based on the acclaimed novel by M.L. Stedman.

Michael Fassbender plays MAN, a stoic, unfunny Kevin Kline lookalike who, fresh back from World War One, has taken a job keeping a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. It’s a position that grants him some “me time” which he uses to stand on cliffs, saw wood, and bask silently in his survivor’s guilt. Things are going just fine for a bit, then LADY shows up and the two fall in love by virtue of them being in the same movie. Before you know it, they’re living the dream life. Just a happy couple in a lighthouse. The lighthouse people. Thank god it’s the early 1900s and Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t exist yet or they’d spend their time watching it and then telling their friends how much “we adore Grey’s Anatomy, right honey? We adorrrrre it.”

During their time together they figure that since Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t exist yet, they should probably have a kid or something. I mean, there’s only so much you can do in a lighthouse (e.g. turn it on, turn it off, turn it on and off real fast while making drum & bass noises with your mouth). The thing is, LADY keeps on having miscarriages, and in the absence of Grey’s Anatomy, this is a real bummer.

Ok, spoiler alert(?). I say this because this next development shouldn’t be a spoiler, but since it doesn’t occur until an hour into the runtime, you may want to skip to the end of this paragraph if you plan on seeing this movie, which you shouldn’t. Anywho, here goes: a boat washes up on the beach with a dead guy and a live baby, so LADY and MAN decide to keep the baby as their own and just lie to everyone on the mainland about it. Of course, when one of the mainlanders says “hey, has anyone seen my husband and/or baby? They disappeared in a boat a little while back,” things get a little hairy. And by “get a little hairy” I mean “stays mostly boring.”

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Spoilers over. Call me old fashioned, but I found the behavior of our leads to be so unforgivable that I stopped even attempting to empathize. This was made all the much more difficult by how weak their romance is. I don’t believe that they love each other almost as much as I don’t believe that people who lived a century ago could be so aggressively stupid on the whole. Of course, Oceans does make attempt to explore the murky ethics of it all, but ultimately it pins our allegiances on “ain’t love grand?” Yeah, love is grand, but these codependent lunatics are not in love. They are dangerous and cruel, and there’s two of them.

All of this could be fixed if the story had some time to breathe; if the trappings of the medium weren’t so – I’ll say it again – exhausting. Because the story really is a good idea on paper. What I’m saying is, the book is probably decent. Maybe the film works better as a companion piece. I’ll never know.

If there is any reason to see this movie it’s for the performance of Alicia Vikander. She’s playing the type of role that actors love. She gets to swoon, cry, and shoot coy side glances at her co-star. There are moments when she can be manic and angry, and moments where she can be insular and meditative. She even gets to climb an outdoor staircase in the pouring rain while pregnant. It’s silly stuff, but she nails it.  And despite what I’ve been saying about the ridiculous story and aggressive tone, Cheese-in-France is definitely a visual talent to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, this is the first (and hopefully last) time I’ll ever say this, buuuuuuut Michael Fassbender kinda sucks in this movie.

The Light Between Oceans opens in Philly theaters today.

Official site.

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