Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: The Light Between Oceans

The prospect of watching two charismatic actors literally fall in love on screen will either appeal tremendously, or make you a little queasy. Either way, there's no denying Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander make an extraordinary couple in this melodramatic love story.

Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Australian author M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans is set on an isolated island off the west coast of Australia. The film was shot in Marlborough and Otago, with Adam Arkapaw's cinematography making New Zealand's epic landscape a character in its own right.

Fassbender and Vikander play Tom and Isabel, a young couple who meet after World War I, marry, and move to tend the lighthouse on rugged Janus Rock. One day, they stumble across a small boat carrying a dead man and a baby, and Isabel convinces Tom to let her keep the baby and raise her as their own.

A scene from the film, The Light Between Oceans.
A scene from the film, The Light Between Oceans.

Tom, a shell-shocked veteran, is torn by the decision to keep the baby, and the moral implications of their decision weighs on him heavily, as it does the audience. If you haven't read the book, you won't yet know how Tom and Isabel's story will play out, but it's clear that heartbreak and despair lie ahead.

Watching this gorgeous couple's life unravel requires some patience; with director Derek Cianfrance's love of capturing in detail small, everyday moments leading to a rather drawn-out narrative. Cianfrance successfully digs into his character's hearts and minds, although at times they wear their hearts on their sleeves unnecessarily.

A scene from the film, The Light Between Oceans.
A scene from the film, The Light Between Oceans.

And that's the unusual thing about The Light Between Oceans, it's a mix of subtle and earthy one minute, and swooning melodrama the next - and it verges on being an overly dramatic chick flick dressed up as an art film.

The film is saved by Fassbender and Vikander, who are a joy to watch, and ventures into contemporary issues, such as the difficulties many couples have when it comes to wanting children. For an almost old-fashioned, period romantic drama, it's surprisingly relatable.

A scene from the film, The Light Between Oceams.
A scene from the film, The Light Between Oceams.

It probably goes without saying, but tissues are a must. Interestingly, I didn't get too wrapped up in the drama - the predictability of an unhappy resolution headed off the tears - but the redemptive ending knocked me. I was still sobbing as I left the cinema.

Don't expect the man in your life to front up for this saga; but that's what girlfriends are for anyway.

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Running Time: 133 mins
Rating: M (Sex Scenes)
Verdict: A gloomy, melodramatic romantic drama.

- TimeOut

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