The Light Between Oceans is set in the early 1900s. Multi-talented and often award-nominated Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) is a war hero who takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on the west coast of Australia. On his infrequent trips off his lighthouse island to a small town, Fassbender’s Tom meets the lovely Isabel. She’s played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl).
They marry and the newlyweds try to start a family, but she miscarries. Their frustration ends when a rowboat washes ashore with a dead man and a live baby. Tom wants to notify authorities and see if they can find the mother or other relatives. Isabel — who is desperate for children — says the baby would be about the age of their dead child and refuses to take no for an answer. Tom reluctantly goes along.
The expected complications start a few years later when they discover the baby’s real mother, played by Rachel Weisz, lives in the town.
The Light Between Oceans washes up on its movie beach as average. Even if the unwieldy 2:12 film was shortened 20 minutes, the light on substance Light would still be agonizingly slow. Writer/director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) shoots a gorgeous movie. Shots of the windswept lighthouse island and other scenes are stunning.
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Not counting Bryan Brown, who we used to see in a lot of movies, Cianfrance’s three known stars are as good as the industry produces. The award buzz has already begun for Vikander and Weisz. Both shine as women battling for the love of a child who each considers her own. Weisz marches the child’s mother forward with single-minded determination and an undaunted will to possess her. Vikander’s Isabel is desperately clutching at straws.
Fassbender isn’t bad either as the conflicted Tom.
Where the film falters is Cianfrance’s writing, dialogue and ability to direct actors. It doesn’t come close to matching his skill with a camera. For some reason, all Cianfrance wants these three great actors to do is whisper their lines. The movie is irritatingly quiet, and when it isn’t quiet, the music and background sounds often drown out the dialogue.
Worse, once the crisis hits, The Light Between Oceans goes from a somewhat original story to a soap opera.
‘The Light Between Oceans’
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown
Mr. Movie rating: Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at the Carmike 12, Fairchild’s Queensgate 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
2 1/2 stars
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.