The Hippo


Jul 15, 2019








The Light Between Oceans (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

 The Light Between Oceans (PG-13)

A lighthouse keeper and his wife endure so much sadness that even their happiest moments are bittersweet in The Light Between Oceans, the saddest sad movie that ever saddened you.
Need a good cry? Here you go! Bring tissues.
Even before we get to any of the sad events of this movie, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) are super sad. Tom is still getting over his four years spent fighting on the Western Front during the Great War. Isabel wonders if she can still call herself a sister after losing her two brothers in that same war. She cries during what is basically their first date. Sad!
But, ever so briefly, these two also get to experience a little happiness. Tom has been given a post as lighthouse keeper on an island off the coast of Australia (the Indian and Pacific Oceans being the oceans of the title). After a few months, and a few months of correspondence with Isabel, Tom agrees to her idea that she come out to the island with him the only way that would be allowed: as his wife. They have a sweet wedding and a sweet and lovely newlywed period, with Isabel falling in love with the wind-swept island. All wrapped up in love for each other and their island home, the couple also get lovey over the baby Isabel is soon expecting. 
But, because this could also be called Sadness! The Two-Hour Experience!, the pregnancy takes a sudden turn and Isabel miscarries. Tom cares for her, gently assuring her that one day they will look back after having five children and find they’ve moved beyond this heartache. They try again, Isabel gets pregnant again and again, cue the sad music.
Within days (or maybe even hours) of miscarriage number two, Isabel, lying on the ground next to the graves of her two babies, hears crying. Tom, up in the lighthouse, sees a boat. They both run down to the shore and find a rowboat containing a dead man and a crying baby girl. Tom tells Isabel to take the baby into the house to warm her up. When he checks in on her a while later, she tells him not to signal the mainland yet, give the baby some time to rest and recuperate. To the surprise of no one, “a while to rest” quickly turns into “forever,” as Isabel begs him not to tell anybody about what washed ashore. Bury the dead guy and we’ll just pretend the baby is ours, she says. He suggests they report the situation and apply to adopt the baby but she reminds him that they live on an island, far from the mainland, and that it is unlikely they would ever be chosen as parents. Perhaps because his deeply grieved wife is now smiling and cooing at a baby or perhaps because he’s been persuaded it’s the best for the baby, Tom agrees, buries the dead man, pulls up the grave marker for their second child and records the little girl’s presence as the early birth of their own baby in his log.
There is a believability problem with this plan that might be better explained in the book on which this movie is based and is further muddled by the nature of movie-making, namely that the baby we see plucked from the sea looks way too old to be anybody’s recently born baby. She is supposed to be the Sherbournes’ baby born early. But newborn babies, even those born roughly full-term, look like strange space aliens if strange space aliens happened to have adorable noses and old-man hairlines. Cute movie infants that are “just born” are actually the baby you get at something like three to four months. Even in a time of nothing but guesstimates when it came to childbirth and baby age, even in a place where people only saw the baby every month or so, it would seem pretty implausible for the Sherbournes to pass off a baby looking some five months older than their child should be. 
Anyway, this being a movie, it’s accepted that Isabel has given birth to a three-month-old, whom she names Lucy and who quickly becomes the joy of their lives. Some while later, they take little Lucy back to the mainland to visit Isabel’s parents and be baptized. While at the church, Tom happens to see a woman singing to a headstone. As it turns out, the headstone is actually a memorial and the woman is Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz). Her husband and baby daughter were lost at sea, as Tom finds out. Mr. Roennfeldt was a German who, feeling threatened by a mob of townspeople, grabbed the baby and set off in a rowboat. Looking at the memorial, Tom sees that the date recorded as the date of their death is the day before Lucy showed up on the island’s beach. He can’t stand the sadness of Hannah but doing anything to help her puts his own family in jeopardy. 
So this is the kind of movie where at best a few people will be mired in sadness and at worst everybody will be. The Light Between Oceans is also an incredibly beautiful movie, from the beautiful Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz to the lovely island to the beautiful long grass that people seem to be forever lying in. Everything about the cinematography is lovely to look at and everything about the story is tear-jerky. It’s not a bad combination, for the kind of movie where people are forever being torn from loved ones, The Light Between Oceans does what it does very well.
If there’s a flaw, it’s that there isn’t much beyond pretty pictures and sad stories. If you like this sort of thing, if this is your flavor of comfort food, this is an impeccably made version. If it’s not, there’s nothing in this movie to give it crossover appeal. B
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content. Written for the screen and directed by Derek Cianfrance (from the novel by M.L. Stedman), The Light Between Oceans is two hours and 12 minutes long and distributed by Dreamworks and Reliance Entertainment.

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