Friday, September 2, 2016

On THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS

I found out what THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS was about one hour before I saw it.  As a matter of fact, I was on my way to the screening room.  It's a drama about a lighthouse keeper and his wife who discover a baby adrift in a canoe with a dead body and keep the baby as their own.  I thought about what The Girl says in the Preston Sturges comedy classic, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS:  "There's nothing like a deep dish movie to drive you out in the open."  My friend, Mike Sargent, invited me to the preview screenings on a hot, muggy July day.  I went because a) I wanted to spend some time with Mike b) the screening room was air-conditioned and c) the movie stars Michael Fassbender.
I was not disappointed in categories a, b or c.  If you're a Michael Fassbender fan, you need to see this new drama. THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS co-stars Alicia Vikander.  After the movie, I learned from Mike Sargent that the leading man and the leading lady are really a romantic couple offscreen as well. Early this year, Alicia Vikander won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 2015's THE DANISH GIRL.  The two actors truly connect in this drama, whether they're romantically involved offscreen or not.
The things about this movie is....THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is like a novel you had to read for your English Lit. class because there would be questions about it on your final exam.  You got about halfway through the book and then you resorted to Cliffs Notes because it was just too heavy.  The screenplay, by the way, was based on a novel of the same name.
Darkness can often disrupt true love like a burglar who breaks into a happy home when the couple is away and steals a priceless heirloom.  The lighthouse keeper (Fassbender) is the first character we see.  He's alone in close-up.  We learn that he's Australian and he survived the horrors of serving in WWI.  There's a sweetness and sadness in his soulful eyes.  The life of solitude as a lighthouse keeper seems to suit him.  Not that he's a loner, but he does seems to be distancing himself from a cruel world.  He can be of service to people as a lighthouse keeper.  A young woman (Vikander) is attracted to him.  She romances and pursues him.  The marry and are very happy together together.  She gets him to shave off the mustache that makes him look stodgy.  Light has come into the lighthouse keeper's life.  Then the wife suffers not just one, but two miscarriages.  The light dims a bit.  Then, like in a Bible story, they find a baby adrift in little boat on the ocean.  A dead German male is in the boat.  The now glum wife wants to keep the baby.  The husband feels they should do the right thing and report it.  He acquiesces to the wife's wishes.  But there was a dead German in the boat.  The question of bigotry arises because Germany was the villain in a war that has finally ended.  We're also looking at themes of parenthood, love and letting go.
The baby brings a definite sunniness back into the marriage.  The lighthouse keeper makes a wonderful papa.
And could there possibly be a more precious child than Lucy in this film?  I loved Lucy.
This adoption, of sorts, causes major drama for the husband, a man with a most loving heart.  As if that's not enough, the baby's real mother, very well-played by Rachel Weisz, enters the scene.  So do the cops.  You start to wonder how much more heartache can one good man endure?  He just wanted a simple, solitary life in a lighthouse and now he's having so much high mama drama that he might not be alive come the end of the story.

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is beautifully photographed and the acting is praise-worthy.  Especially Fassbender's.  Fassbender is one of the finest film actors we have right now.  It will be hard not to be touched and moved by Michael Fassbender's graceful performance.  However, I wouldn't suggest this as a weekend date movie.  Unless you're both hardcore Michael Fassbender fans.

It's a quality film.  It's a melodrama.  It's good.  But the darkness that sails into this marriage and the dilemmas of parenting are almost too relentless to totally absorb you as a moviegoer.  Melodrama works best when there's more light.

To fully understand what I mean by that, go see THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS in which a lovable girl is torn between two mothers, one being the actual birth mother.  Then rent and watch STELLA DALLAS, a 1937 Hollywood classic starring Barbara Stanwyck giving one of the most memorable performances of her long, extraordinary career.  If only all of THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS could have been as absorbing as Stanwyck's final scene alone.

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