The Light Between Oceans Review
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When you settle in at your favorite theater to watch a period romance, you might just expect some long, meaningful glances and a heartwarming story. But when that romance stars award season favorites like Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, you’d probably expect more depth and drama than you’ll get from The Light Between Oceans.

The Light Between Oceans tells the story of Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender), a war hero who returns to Australia in 1918 to accept a job as the lighthouse keeper on a remote island. During his time in solitude, he corresponds with Isabel Graysmark (Vikander), and he eventually brings her to the island as his wife. But their perfect new life together is shadowed by the loss of two pregnancies—so when a rowboat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a baby who’s desperately in need of help, Isabel decides to keep the child and raise her as their own.

The Light Between Oceans is an unhurried period romance—the kind that’s painted with a muted, dreamy palette and accompanied by a dramatic score. The scenery is picturesque, traveling from the charming village to the rocky seaside cliffs of the couple’s isolated home. The characters are both charming in their own way, too. He’s strong and silent, hiding the pain and suffering he witnessed during the war, while she’s bright and bubbly and full of life, despite the loss that her own family suffered because of the war. And there’s just something sweet and hopeful about their love story.

Eventually, though, the story turns into something more complex as Tom deals with the guilt of their actions. It becomes more thoughtful—and even more suspenseful—and the tension builds. Though Fassbender generally remains pretty stony, Vikander once again shows her range as her character goes through a vast array of emotions, transforming from love interest to newlywed to grieving mother to doting parent.

Unfortunately, The Light Between Oceans is much longer than it needs to be. While writer/director Derek Cianfrance allows the characters and their story plenty of time to develop, the build-up feels drawn-out and far too deliberately paced. And by the time the most fascinating conflicts arise, it struggles to alter that slow, sleepy tone into something more gripping and thought-provoking. So while it’s certainly a beautiful film, it simply isn’t an especially riveting one.

If you’re just looking for a dreamy romance to enjoy during one of those fading warm, summery afternoons, The Light Between Oceans will fit the bill. But the story ends up floating too far adrift to make it a memorable drama.

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