The Light Between Oceans is exactly the kind of movie I never would have teared up at before parenthood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a tear-jerker; I just didn’t use to well-up at obvious tear jerkers. This film features a married couple, Tom (Michael Fassbender) and Isabel (Alicia Vikander), living alone on an island where Tom tends a lighthouse. A couple of days after her second miscarriage, they spot a boat drifting near the beach and discover a baby and the dead body of the baby’s father. In her inexplicable grief, Isabel sees this as a gift from God while Tom sees it as an event that must be reported to the mainland immediately. Isabel convinces Tom not to report it and they decide to raise the baby as their own. After a couple of years, they return to the mainland to christen the child and Tom discovers who the child’s mother is (Rachel Weisz), and that she, Hannah, visits the grave of her daughter and husband every day. The guilt he felt before was nothing compared to the level it ratchets up to upon seeing Hannah in the cemetery. It’s the kind of guilt that not even Catholic or Jewish mothers can inspire (though not for lack of trying).
The full guilt hasn't kicked in yet.
I won’t tell you anymore about the plot and what I did tell you is on the back of the book this movie is based on (same title), so no whining about spoilers. However, I will tell you that the story is really about love, more specifically what parents will do for their kids and what spouses will do for their partners. In this scenario, the child is just the catalyst for the choices forced upon these three people. Think of this as the worst multiple choice test you’ve ever taken and multiply by Romeo and Juliet.
At this point, you probably have two questions. Question One – why would I review a movie like this when I typically review movies featuring robots, car chases, explosions, or exploding robot car chases? Answer – Rachel Weisz, Michael Fassbender, and Alicia Vikander. All three of those actors are near the top of my list of actors I will watch in anything, and they did not disappoint. Pay special attention to the scene where Isabel is pleading with Tom not to call in their finding and watch their faces. If you didn’t know what anguish looked like before this film, you will after that scene.
Question Two – did I really cry? You’ve probably already guessed that I did, but you’re not sure how much. Answer – I did, but not in the theater. I held it together through a combination of determination and raw, manly toughness. Think Tim Allen and his barking and multiply by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then, I got in my car and made it about five more minutes before my parent brain kicked in and wept like a bride on her wedding day. Really, that’s all you need to know about this film.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back, but do ask for some tissue for the drive home.