Whether you’re a book or movie person, you’ll probably end up watching The Light Between Oceans. But if you’re strictly a book person, you might want to know if the movie can live up to the book.
This weekend is an important one. It’s Labor Day weekend and on Monday we celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. How do we celebrate? Usually with hot dogs and sitting on our rear. It’s really more like UN-Labor Day.
If you’re looking for a fulfilling way to sit on your rear this weekend, I’ve got the perfect Chick Flick for you.
The Light Between Oceans is the story of a tortured soul of a man, Tom, who lives a seemingly simple yet perfect life with his own ray of sunshine, Isabel. But this particular love story is fraught with moral dilemmas that will have you questioning what’s right and what’s wrong.
DreamWorks Pictures’ “The Light Between Oceans” is a heart-breaking drama about fate, love, moral dilemmas and the lengths to which one couple will go to see their dreams realized. In the years following World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), a young veteran still numb from his years in combat, takes a job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote island off the coast of Western Australia. As the island’s sole inhabitant, he finds comfort in the monotony of the chores and the solitude of his surroundings. When he meets the daughter of the school’s headmaster, Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), in the local town of Partageuse on the mainland, Tom is immediately captivated by her beauty, wit and passion, and they are soon married and living on the island. As their love flourishes, he begins to feel again, their happiness marred only by their inability to start a family, so when a rowboat with a dead man and infant girl mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have finally been answered. As a man of principle, Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves, and against his better judgment he agrees to let Isabel raise the child as their own, making a choice with devastating consequences.
If you’ve read the popular novel of the same name by M.L. Stedman, you know what you’re in for. The real question is: should you bring tissues?
Being a devout read-the-book-before-seeing-the-movie, I crammed and read the book before the screening I attended, finishing only hours before the movie. The story was still fresh in my mind so I was ready for it. I was ready for a broad, sweeping, emotional drama and that’s exactly what I got. But before giving you my final verdict, let me share a few thoughts about the film.
As good as the book?
Yes. In fact, I thought the movie, in some ways, was better than the book. The relationship between Tom and Isabel came to life for me on the screen and I could feel their passion and the love that would carry them through the crux of the movie.
What I liked even more is that you don’t have to read the book before this movie. Often, I’m watching a film based on a novel and I know that I would be confused had I not read the book. Not the case here. There was one outstanding omission, though, that I felt should have been left in. Read on and I’ll tell you more.
How was the casting?
Sometimes I live under a rock so when I met my friend for dinner before we went to the screening, she told me how much she loved Michael Fassbender. Who? I asked. You know, the LEAD. He’s been in the X-Men movies but I’ve never seen him in anything before.
During the movie, I couldn’t stop thinking that he looked like the lovechild of Ed Harris and Bryan Cranston. But I will say this. He’s a good crier. Teary eyes, runny nose. The man can display emotion. He was just a bit old for the part, if you asked me. In the book, Tom is roughly 28 years old and Fassbender is a good ten years older than that.
The other lead was also an unknown to me with Alicia Vikander playing the role of Isabel. With a few quick searches, though, I found that she was in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. where she played a German woman. While I had to reset my expectations of her (and her accent), I found that she was quite good in this role, even though she’s nothing like how I pictured Isabel. She can also bring the tears and runny nose.
Hands down, the costumes were my favorite part of the film. Set during the 1920s, I was drawn to every detail, especially the hats.
And the setting and cinematography made the film. With the broad sweeping shots and the gloomy skies, you got the sense of the small town isolation that’s depicted in the book.
Always a cynic
Even though I loved the movie, there are some things you need to know before going.
First of all, what’s up with the accent? I wanted to hear the Australian accent I love so much but most of the characters used an English accent. I tried to research if that was historically accurate. Instead I found that it might be historically possible but I was hoping for more consistency.
There’s an omission I mentioned above. In the book, Tom has previously met Hannah Roennfeldt, played by Rachel Weisz. Hannah becomes an important character late in the movie and their previous meeting helps to tie the entire story together from a moral perspective. Omitting this made the relationship feel somewhat flat.
Also, the movie is made for maximum dramatic effect. Again, the cinematography, while beautiful, is sometimes a bit overdone with extreme close-ups throughout much of the film. And there were many, many voiceovers of dramatic letters being read.
If this is what you like and what you’re expecting, you’ll be just fine. And if you’re looking for a good cry, you might just get it. At the end, I could hear the woman next to me sniffling. Either her allergies were acting up or the emotional scenes of the movie got to her.
I left with a dry eye (two of them, actually) but I’m told that I’m made of steel. It will tug at your heartstrings and it will make you think about what you would do, given the circumstances. And for that reason, it’s a great film to watch and discuss while maybe shedding a few tears.
This post may contain affiliate links.