Based on the novel of the same name by M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans follows Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) a WW1 Veteran who takes on the position of Lighthouse Keeper on a remote Island off the coast of Australia. The first half of the film focuses on Tom over the course of a few years as he starts his new job and with that meets, falls in love and marries Isabel (Alicia Vikander). Unfortunately Isabel suffers two miscarriages and so when days after the second loss a boat floats onto the island carrying the body of a deceased male and his surviving daughter, Isabel sees this as a sign and begs Tom not to report the boat. Isabel is so desperate for a child that she clings onto this little girl and they start to bring her up as their own for no one on the mainland knew yet of the second miscarriage. The second half of the film – and the main story line – begins when a few years later on a trip back to the mainland, Tom learns of a woman, Hannah (Rachel Weisz), who’s husband and daughter were lost at sea the same time as the boat came to them. Tom realises that their little girl is in fact Hannah’s but knowing how much Isabel wanted a child and the trouble they could get into he has to make a decision whether to reveal the truth or not.
The Light Between Oceans is a very powerful film with some superb acting from the three leading actors. Alicia Vikander in particular is so convincing as Isabel in her quest to have and then keep her child. There are some really heartbreaking scenes that she pulls off beautifully, and her chemistry onscreen with Michael Fassbender really works. You totally believe them as a couple and can feel every emotion they are going through. Alicia is definitely one to watch, she has given powerful performances in all the films she has starred in so far and now with a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award under her belt for The Danish Girl (my review of which you can read here:The Danish Girl) she is sure to keep climbing!
Michael Fassbender is also a brilliant actor, and here his character is put through so many emotional situations. Tom is clearly torn between doing what is right and protecting Isabel from any pain. We see that he is uncomfortable with the lies surrounding their daughter but goes along with it out of love for Isabel, so when he learns of Hannah and her grief he struggles with what to do. I won’t give away the ending but believe me it is incredibly emotional, I shed a tear or two!
Rachel Weisz, though her part is smaller than the other two, gives another great performance as the grieving wife and mother who just wants to know the truth as to what happened to her husband and daughter. She has some very powerful scenes with Alicia towards the end of the film and both actresses excel in them.
There is some brilliant dialogue throughout, given to us through moments of extreme close ups to really pin the emotion. One scene that really got to me was when Isabel and Tom are on a cliff top with the wind and the sea roaring around them and Isabel explains that her three brothers were killed in the war leaving her an only child. She then touches on the question of whether you are still a mother if your children have died (something which will resonate with her later in the film) and asks “Am I still a sister if my brothers are gone?”. I think this scene is there so that we can get a real understanding of the loss that Isabel has already occurred before her traumatic miscarriages and why she is then led to her desperation in keeping the baby girl.
Overall, The Light Between Oceans is a great film, the story line is powerful and gripping and brilliantly acted. The only thing that lets it down is that it’s over two hours long and I felt that the first half of the film where Tom and Isabel meet could have been shortened a lot. The main premise of the film is about the finding of their daughter and hiding the truth from the others but this doesn’t really kick in for a very long time! As a viewer you really connect with the characters and are put in the same position as Tom as you battle with your thoughts as to what is right and wrong regarding the upbringing of the little girl. I think this film might be one that gets overlooked by a lot of people but it is a very good thought provoking film and one I would definitely recommend.