Weekend movie review: The Light Between Oceans

Regular readers of Grandma's Briefs likely know I'm a huge fan of movie trailers. I share them often here on my blog. I always ensure I get to the movie theater in plenty of time to see all the previews preceding a feature film. I even went so far recently as to set my DVR to record an AXS TV program called "Nothing But Trailers" — three full hours of trailers every Monday night.

About six months ago I stumbled across the trailer for THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS. Deeply moved by it, I passed it along to my oldest daughter, who was so deeply moved she purchased the novel, written by M. L. Stedman, within 10 minutes of watching the trailer. She in turn passed along a glowing, nay, raving recommendation of the book so I then purchased it too. Hardcopy versus her digital version that she couldn't share with me.

I was as enthralled by the book as my daughter, and we agreed when the movie came out, we absolutely must see it together.

the light between oceans movie 

Needless to say, when I lucked out and was invited to screen THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS earlier this week, my plus-one — my daughter, of course — and I had high expectations.

The film didn't disappoint either of us. At least not in huge ways. We loved the film. Just not as nearly as much as the book. Because the film didn't have as many details thus fewer heart-wrenching moments and heart-pounding climaxes that marked some of our favorite passages in the novel.

That said, my daughter and I both agreed it would be impossible to include everything in the book (as is the case nearly always with books turned into movies), that the cinematic story did stay true to the written story, and that there was absolutely nothing we hated about the translation from book to film.

If you haven't read the book and don't know the story, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS takes place in Australia just after World War I. It's about a good man making horrendously bad choices for the woman for whom he'd give his life and anything and everything else. And the consequences of said bad choices.

It's also an amazing, unforgettable love story. And a heartbreaking look at motherhood — mothers who lose their babies in different ways.

All that — as well as secrets and regrets and such — tangled up together and, for the film, presented in breathtaking cinematic fashion. The film, directed by Derek Cianfrance (THE PLACE BETWEEN THE PINES), stars Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherbourne and Alicia Vaskander as Isabel Graysmark (the two became a real-life couple during filming... how could they not?) along with Rachel Weisz as Hannah Roennfeldt. Saying much more than that will give so very much away, so I'll leave it up to the trailer:


THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is absolutely beautiful, filmed in soft, muted textures and nearly sepia-like tones. The cinematography breathtakingly illustrates the solitude of lighthouse living as well as the joy such isolation allows for the couple and their eventual family. The score moves brilliantly between quiet, intimate moments to soaring joyful notes intertwined with an underlying melody marked by dread — perfectly matching the passionate and poignant as well as painful tone of the story.

Every actor in the film — from the main three to the minor parts (including Bryan Brown, whom I've missed of late, as father to Rachel Weisz's character) — fully embody the emotions of each scene with beauty, grace, and guts. In particular, Tom's love and dedication to his wife and his inner turmoil over his choices and secrets plays out powerfully in Fassbender's eyes, requiring not a sound from the actor to support his devotion, joy, conflict, pain. Vaskander plays Isabel with an opposite but equally powerful tact, chattering away as a young woman in love; mournfully moaning, groaning, sometimes screeching or growling over her loss. And Weisz's Hannah? Played with reserved yet powerful pain etched across her face, apparent in her deliberate movements and minimal words.

Those who haven't read the book will likely be moved to tears while watching many scenes. Folks who have read the book may, too. My daughter and I readily admit to wiping away a few tears. Yet, due to the absent details that built drama and devastation in the novel, our weeping paled in comparison to the full-blown bawl-fests accompanying several page-turner parts of the book.

Still, we loved the film. Just not as much as we did the book. Naturally.

A lovely little featurette about THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS:

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (rated PG-13 for "thematic material and some sexual content") opened today in theaters nationwide.

Disclosure: I screened this film for free; opinions are mine (and my daughter's).