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"The screen is a magic medium. It has such power that it can retain interest as it conveys emotions and moods that no other art form can hope to tackle." Stanley Kubrick

Spoiler Free Review for The Light Between Oceans

Title: The Light Between Oceans

Date: 2016

MPAA: PG-13

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz

Synopsis: A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.

Based on the novel of the same name, The Light Between Oceans is a powerful film that is both touching and heartbreaking. With his all-star cast, Cianfrance uses them as an advantage to overly express his emotionally charged screenplay. This film has a compelling storyline and an effective pace to it that delivers one gut-punch after another. With a runtime of 132 minutes, this film could have easily dragged, however it constantly gets more intriguing, but definitely more sorrowful. Director, Derek Cianfrance, is known for creating very depressing films. His break-out film, Blue Valentine, is one of the most saddening films I have ever seen. However, it is very well-made and acted. The same can be said about this film, and Cianfrance may have out-done himself with the sadness and melancholy. As I already mentioned, this film has a great cast that were all very well-cast. So, how were the performances?

The two main leads, Fassbender and Vikander, are both on my lists of the Best Actors Working Today and Best Actresses Working Today. This is what intrigued me most about watching this film, because they are both actors that not only are extremely talented, but really command the screen. What I like most about their performances in this film are how they show their vulnerable sides most-often. This is an important attribute for a great actor, and is something that both Fassbender and Vikander do very well. Fassbender offers a much more stable performance than Vikander, but out of the two of them, I would say I preferred Vikander’s performance more. Michael Fassbender is known for being a very tense actor with his roles. Some of his greatest performances have been with malicious villains or unethical human-beings. With this film, he plays just an ordinary man, and requires the audience to feel sympathy for him, but I had a hard time feeling sympathetic for his character. Vikander had a much more natural performance, and I found myself feeling more sorry for her character than Fassbender’s in the film. Alicia Vikander has easily become one of my favorite actresses working today. Her role in Ex Machina might be the more iconic performance, but her performance in this film is probably the most well-rounded performance I have seen from her. She displays many types of emotions with ease, and really pulls off the heart-wrecking scenes very naturally and realistically. Rachel Weisz also gives a great performance. Her character becomes very important in the second-half of the film, kind of like her performance in The Lobster. She is having a great year so far, and has more to come in the later part of 2016 with films like Denial and The Mercy.

This film is beautifully filmed and truly exquisite to watch. Filmed on location of an actual island with a lighthouse (Australia), Cianfrance uses the weather and nature as his advantage. What I respected most about his filmmaking was I could tell he really put the time and effort into making this film the best he could. Whenever there was a dramatic, meaningful scene then the weather got very abrasive. It would either be very windy or rainy. There are a numerous amount of breathtaking shots that really makes the film more effective and great to look at. This film really immersed me onto the location with the characters, and Cianfrance did a great job of giving a feel for where they were. This movie could have been filmed a lot more mediocre and average, but Cianfrance’s vision and attention for detail really made it stand out from a lot of other dramas. Cianfrance is know for going out of his way to make sure his actors feel like an actual couple. With this film, he had Fassbender and Vikander both live on the island for 6 weeks together. This really shows, because their relationship in the film seems very natural and realistic.

Derek Cianfrance’s last two films are Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines. I think they are both extraordinary films, home-runs in my book. To stick with the baseball analogies, I would say The Light Between Oceans is like a triple. It does damage, but doesn’t quite reach all of the bases and scores. I was really looking forward to this film, and it most definitely could have been a masterpiece or as good as his previous two films, but it defiantly lacked in character-development and originality. This film was not as bold and ambitious as his previous two films and was a lot more conservative. That isn’t to say that it was totally mediocre, but it just did not compare to his previous work. The biggest problem I had with this film was how overly sentimental it was. I think Cianfrance focused so much on creating a emotionally-charged film that it just came off as too depressing. At least Blue Valentine has some happy, touching moments in the mix of the sadness. The Light Between Oceans came off as very sentimental, and that might have something to do with the really serious actors, and story in the film. With that said, I still think the acting was good and the chemistry was fantastic with the leads.

Overall, The Light Between Oceans is powerful drama that offers fantastic performances with great directing and cinematography. It can be very heart-wrenching and depressing at times, and definitely could have offered more light-hearted scenes, but is truly effective in what it is trying to tell. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander are two of our best actors working today, and are fantastic to watch on-screen. They both gave Oscar-worthy performances, but I have definitely seen better performances from Fassbender in films like Shame and 12 Years a Slave. I would say Vikander was far more memorable and had a more natural/realistic performance. This could be her best performance yet, and she might be nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. The movie explores the consequences that can ensue when you are forced to make a difficult, unethical decision, and how far one would go for a loved-one. Anyone who is married or has children can relate to this film, and it will most certainly hit them emotionally. This is a must-see for anyone who likes to watch great acting and directing, and who has a lot of tissues, because they will definitely need some. My grade for this film is:

3.75/5

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