HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Light Between Oceans
HTS Overall Score:82
I have not read the breakout hit of the same name, but being that “The Light Between Oceans” was penned/directed by Derek Cianfrance, the same man who did “The Place Beyond the Pines”, I was MORE than intrigued. “The Place Beyond the Pines” was an incredibly well done drama, with an even more amazing style of photography, and I have heard nothing but good thing about M.L. Stedman’s novel (he wrote “The Light Between Oceans”). While not as deep and intricate as “The Place Beyond the Pines”, “The Light Between Oceans” is a sweet drama that takes several different directions that I didn’t see coming to weave together an intimate tale of love, tragedy, dishonesty and forgiveness. The sweeping visuals of the Australian landscape, and the wonderful chemistry between the 4 main characters makes for a fascinating tale with only a few flaws to keep it from being GREAT.
Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) has just come home to his native Australia from the ravages of World War I and is looking for a place to hang up his hat. After all the craziness and violence he experienced, the quiet man is just looking for something to do that doesn’t force him to be around a great many people. His desire is granted in the form of a six-month contract to act as a substitute caretaker in a lighthouse off the coast. This six-month contract turns into a three-year contract, and Tom starts looking to set down roots. On a furlough to the mainland from his little island of Janus Tom meets young Isabel (Alicia Vikander), and immediately falls for her (and her him as well). The sparks of romance blossom into a full-on courtship via letters and soon the lovers are reunited in marriage on his little island post.
The two are more than eager to start a family together, and they are blessed with a pregnancy soon after settling in. Sadly, the child is taken from them in a twist of fate when Isabel goes into labor months before her due date. Devastated by the loss, Isabel is nearly inconsolable with grief, which is only abated when the two are looking forward to their next child. A child which is also taken from them by the same malady of early birth. Seemed doomed to be childless, Isabel and Tom’s wish is granted in the oddest of ways. A lifeboat washes up on the beaches of Janus with a dead man on board and a squalling infant. Tom, of course, wants to alert the authorities of a missing child and dead man on the beach, but Isabel begs him to just let it go. The man is dead and the child needs a mother. So, against his better judgement, Tom acquiesces to her request and claim the few month-old child as their own.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=89097[/img]Being that no one ever goes out to the island except to resupply the couple, Tom and Isabel are able to claim that they had Lucy (the name they give to the orphan) on their own and no one is the wiser. The problem is that Tom soon finds out the identity of the real mother. It seems that the daughter of the richest man in the local had lost her husband and newborn child at sea. A child who would be right about the same age as Lucy is by all accounts. Keeping silent for the sake of his wife and her love for the child, Tom agonizes over the knowledge that they are keeping another woman’s child without that person’s knowledge, effectively becoming kidnappers for lack of a better word. No matter the good intentions for the child, lying like this and keeping the facts hidden from the real mother is something that Tom cannot live with, and something has to be done.
The first half of “The Light Between Oceans” is nothing short of remarkable story telling. Cianfrance shows wonderful delicacy in the way he handles the love and life of Isabel and Tom. Tom is a broken man coming home from the ravages of war, and his entrance into society is one that is filled with sadness and trepidation. The romance between the lighthouse keeper and the vivacious Isabel is sweet and intimate, while being completely realistic at the same time. The two form a bond that most of us can only dream about, but it is done in a way that doesn’t reek of sugary sweet forced exposition. You’re truly enthralled in their life, even though not a whole lot is going on. Even after the big incident in the center of the movie where Lucy washes up shore, there is not a moment wasted. The second act is almost as good, and handled competently, but as the film progresses you can see the narrative becoming a bit more “Disney Sugary Sweet” and forced with each progressing minute. I was honestly wondering how they were going to wrap up the conflict between Tom, Isabel and the real mother, Hannah (Rachel Weisz), as the film kept getting deeper and darker by the second. I wasn’t expecting anything massively dark from the initial reviews and the trailer, but the actual ending just a bit “diabetes rich” in the sweetness department. That’s not to say that the ending half of the movie ruins the movie. Not by a long shot. “The Light Between Oceans” is still a wonderfully inspiring and sweet story, but the problematic ending is just a noticeable difference in quality if you compare the two halves of the film side by side.
There are two facets of the film that really give “The Light Between Oceans” its intoxicating “pull” for the viewer. The first being the wonderful cinematography and loving care of the period piece aesthetics. Great attention and detail is given to the waving Australian grasses, and the almost looping nature of the way the wind plays throughout the icy shores. You can almost watch the film without audio and be just about as amazed, as the visual setup plays almost as much in the storytelling as the actual plot. The second facet happens to be the main characters. Weisz, Fassbender and Vikander make the movie for me. I loved the visuals, but Tom and Isabel’s romance and subsequent falling apart are made possible by the intensity and chemistry between Fassbender and Alicia Vikander. Rachel Weisz feels a bit out of place as the obviously older mother, but the British actress complements the story exquisitely with her frustration and desperation to find her missing daughter.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=89105[/img]I will give them this. Disney really knows how to release stellar day and date movies on home video. “The Light Between Oceans” sports a stellar looking 1080p encode that showcases the wonderful Australian scenery with deft precision. Shot on Arri Alexa cameras and then given a 2K master, the 2.40:1 AVC encoded image is nothing short of breathtaking. The period piece film is given a soft warm glow to the color spectrum, with glossy whites and an almost halo like effect for the golden grass and wooden textures. Contrast levels are evenly balanced, and the fairly natural color grading makes for a delightfully inviting image that contains amazing detailing with only a couple of flaws. Those flaws would be the occasional spike of digital noise in low light scenes and the black levels not looking AS black and inky as I would have liked. Otherwise the disc is artifact free and is just this shy of being reference. Well done Disney, well done.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=89113[/img]Not to be outdone by the video, the 7.1 DTS-HD MA mix is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. While I’m a little sorry that Disney hasn’t jumped on the Atmos/DTS:X bandwagon, the 7.1 experience is just about perfect. In all honesty, I’m really torn about my rating as I almost gave it a 5/5 score. If I had to be razor precise it would be a 4.75/5 rating. The film doesn’t seem like it would be one that you would gush over and have your jaw hanging on the floor, but “The Light Between Oceans” manages to do just that. Much of the movie has gusting winds and the rippling of leaves in the grasses, not to mention the constant lapping of waves up against sandy beach, and the surrounds are just FULL of activity. In fact, this has to be one of the best uses of surround channels in a movie that I can think of. This isn’t to be confused with having hot surrounds like “Man of Steel”, but there is nonstop use of those 4 back channels, integrating soft ambient noises along with the roaring of a storm or the gusting of winds across the front and back channels all at once. Dialog is, of course, clean and strong, and the LFE channel is used judiciously to complement the film’s more aggressive moments (a storm during Isabel’s first tragedy happens to be one of the biggest and most powerful instances). All around, one of the best non action tracks I’ve heard in a while and probably THE best use of surround channels in a mix that I’ve ever heard.
• Audio Commentary with Director Derek Cianfrance and Film Studies Professor Phil Solomon
• Bringing "The Light" to Life
• Lighthouse Keeper
“The Light Between Oceans” starts out with an amazing first act and a very strong second act, but the overly syrupy and slightly forced third act keeps me from giving a completely rave review. Again, I must reiterate that I sincerely enjoyed the movie and the third act stumbling does not rob the movie of enjoyment. Weisz, Fassbender and Vikander steal the entire show with their very intimate relationships, and the overarching tale of love and forgiveness makes for a great movie to watch with the wife. I will fully admit to tearing up a few times during the movie and while it could have used some work in the final act has me giving it a single thumbs-up as my recommendation.
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz
Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Written by: Derek Cianfrance, M.L. Stedman
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 133 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 24th, 2017
Buy The Light Between Oceans On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Solid Watch
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