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The Light Between Oceans (Shaw Organisation)

The Light Between Oceans (Shaw Organisation)

Review: 'The Light Between Oceans' will gently rock you to sleep

Marcus Goh

Secret ending? Goodness gracious, no.

Running time: 132 minutes (~2.25 hours)

“The Light Between Oceans” is a romance drama based on the 2012 novel of the same name.

The film is about a former World War I soldier who becomes a lighthouse keeper. Life with his wife on the lighthouse island seems idyllic, but their desire for children soon thwarts this bliss.

“The Light Between Oceans” is directed by Derek Cianfrance, with a screenplay adaptation written by him as well. It stars Michael Fassbender (Tom Sherbourne), Alicia Vikander (Isabel Graysmark Sherbourne), and Rachel Weisz (Hannah Roennfeldt). It is rated PG.

“The Light Between Oceans” may have made for a good novel, but it certainly didn’t translate well to screen. Or rather, the adaptation didn’t take into account the strengths and weaknesses of the movie medium, resulting in a finished product that might as well have let us read the novel on the cinema screen itself. Whatever promise it held was squandered away over a long, dreary 132 minutes.


Beautiful shots and scenery

A secluded lighthouse island inhabited by a very good looking couple is a recipe for plenty of beautiful shots and camera angles that carefully frame the exquisite thespians amidst a paradisiacal setting. The movie is easy on the eyes, that’s for sure. Even the scenes set in the mainland are heavily romanticised, to the extent that you forget that this is a country that’s recovering from a devastating war.


Overdramatic plot

Every 15 minutes, someone will die or lie or learn a horrible secret. Whether it’s offscreen (like a casual mention of a suicide) or implied, it seems that nobody can ever just be calm and rational about what happens to them. They can’t just change their mind like a normal person, they have to have a change of heart at the last possible minute and react as drastically as possible. It might be heart-wrenching the first few times, but it becomes the new normal by the middle of the film.

Unclear exposition

And yet with all that drama going on, sometimes motivations and actions aren’t clearly explained. You’ll need to read online plot summaries or been a fan of the book if you want a clear picture of why events unfolded the way they did. Otherwise you’ll be left wondering to yourself — when did that happen?

Pace of a snail

Even with the overblown reactions to everything, the story is slow. It almost lulls you to sleep with its pace, as it flashes yet another wonderful mood shot of the couple enjoying their time together. It goes from pensive appreciation of cinematography to draggy camera movements (if there are any at all). You can almost hear the sound of the film scraping its feet against the floorboards.

Hollow, forced emotions

The music and facial expressions tell you what you’re supposed to feel, along with whatever melodramatic turn the plot has taken. But as masterful as Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander’s performances are, you can’t help feeling that the emotions are… trite. Cheap, even. It feels like they’re trying to milk sympathy from the audience, but you can only squeeze so hard before it starts feeling forced.

“The Light Between Oceans” is a boring, meaningless adaptation.

“The Light Between Oceans” opens in cinemas:
– 19 January, 2017 (Singapore)

Should you watch this if it’s free? OK.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 1.9/5