The Light Between Oceans (2016)

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Critic Consensus: The Light Between Oceans presents a well-acted and handsomely mounted adaptation of its bestselling source material, but ultimately tugs on the heartstrings too often to be effective.

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Movie Info

DreamWorks Pictures' "The Light Between Oceans" is a heart-breaking drama about fate, love, moral dilemmas and the lengths to which one couple will go to see their dreams realized. Starring Academy Award (R) and Golden Globe (R) nominee Michael Fassbender, Oscar (R) winner Alicia Vikander, Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson, the film is written for the screen and directed by Derek Cianfrance based on the acclaimed novel by M.L. Stedman. The producers are Academy Award nominee David Heyman, p.g.a. and Jeffrey Clifford, p.g.a. with Tom Karnowski, Rosie Alison, Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King serving as executive producers. In the years following World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), a young veteran still numb from his years in combat, takes a job as lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote island off the coast of Western Australia. As the island's sole inhabitant, he finds comfort in the monotony of the chores and the solitude of his surroundings. When he meets the daughter of the school's headmaster, Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), in the local town of Partageuse on the mainland, Tom is immediately captivated by her beauty, wit and passion, and they are soon married and living on the island. As their love flourishes, he begins to feel again, their happiness marred only by their inability to start a family, so when a rowboat with a dead man and infant girl mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have finally been answered. As a man of principle, Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves, and against his better judgment he agrees to let Isabel raise the child as their own, making a choice with devastating consequences. DreamWorks Pictures' "The Light Between Oceans" opens in U.S. theaters on September 2nd.

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Cast

Michael Fassbender
as Tom Sherbourne
Alicia Vikander
as Isabel Graysmark
Rachel Weisz
as Hannah Roennfeldt
Florence Clery
as Lucy-Grace
Jack Thompson
as Ralph Addicott
Thomas Unger
as Bluey Smart
Jane Menelaus
as Violet Graysmark
Garry McDonald
as Bill Graysmark
John Anthony Hayes
as Sergeant Vernon Knuckey
Benedict Hardie
as Constable Harry Garstone
Emily Barclay
as Gwen Potts
Bryan Brown
as Septimus Potts
Stephen Ure
as Neville Whittnish
Peter McCauley
as Sergeant Spragg
Leon Ford
as Frank Roennfeldt
Jonathan Wagstaff
as Constable Bob Lynch
Gerald Bryan
as Captain Percy Hasluck
Caren Pistorius
as Adult Lucy-Grace
Elizabeth Hawthorne
as Mrs. Hasluck
Michael Wallace
as Reverend Norkels
Peter Hayden
as Dr. Sumpton
Gary Blackman
as Bernie Gutcher
Carmel McGlone
as Bertha Chipper
Jeffrey Thomas
as Cyril Chipper
Edwin Lancashire
as Piano Turner
Dean Morganty
as Drunken Soldier
Elsa May
as Mrs. Mouchmore
John Bach
as Mayor Jock Johnson
Kerrie Waterworth
as Fanny Darnley
Marshall Napier
as Mr. Coughlan
Miriam Noonan
as Maisee McPhee
Graham Warman
as Town Photographer
George Vozar
as Police Photographer
Georgie Gascoigne
as Lucy-Grace 12 Months Old
Imogen Wilmhurst
as Lucy-Grace 12 Months Old
Lucy Wilmhurst
as Lucy-Grace 12 Months Old
Emily Wilmhurst
as Lucy-Grace 12 Months Old
Elliot Newbery
as Lucy-Grace 3 Months Old
Evangeline Newbery
as Lucy-Grace 3 Months Old
Christine Foote
as Lucy-Grace Newborn
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News & Interviews for The Light Between Oceans

Critic Reviews for The Light Between Oceans

All Critics (217) | Top Critics (41)

I suspect a doomed romance of another sort has unfurled: Acclaimed indie director falls for slush bucket best-seller and thinks he can "redeem" it with great cinematography and Oscar-winning actors.

Sep 22, 2016 | Full Review…
Newsweek
Top Critic

Stand back from this fable and examine it for logic, and you see how nonsensical it is.

Sep 5, 2016 | Full Review…

Contrivances and melodrama aside, it is emotionally true and that's often the most important thing for a film of this nature.

Sep 2, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The movie ends up seeming like an inchoate hybrid of melodrama and psychodrama-between the oceans, indeed.

Sep 2, 2016 | Full Review…

The movie errs most with its main plot, which requires the characters to behave with utmost stupidity, sacrificing its hard-earned storytelling for a frustrating payoff.

Sep 2, 2016 | Full Review…

The Light Between Oceans is stunning to see, and the performances are of the highest caliber, but it's all packaged in a story that just doesn't earn its stay, or our tears.

Sep 2, 2016 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Light Between Oceans

Like a restaurant that advertises steak but rather serves hamburger.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

½

Cianfrance has become an "expert" in corny melodramas, and this is like a shameless telenovela that suffers even more from the fact that there is no chemistry between the two bland leads and nothing in there to make us feel any sympathy for a couple of baby kidnappers.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

The Light Between Oceans deals with tragedy and 'what if' scenarios in a fascinating way that will have you weighing in on the "right thing to do" vs. "what feels right". The moral quandary is heightened by a series of events that veer dangerously close into melodrama. Yet screenwriter Derek Cianfrance masterfully weaves an ethical dilemma to keep the viewer's attention enrapt. It's also acted to perfection by Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, both fresh from recent Academy Awards nominations last year. She won. He didn't. It certainly doesn't hurt that the two are amorously involved off screen as well. So yeah, they have chemistry together. That's pretty important in a love story and a key element as to why this romance works. There are some irksome developments. A frustrating resolution could have easily been averted with a simple conversation or two. But ah, such is life! The real world can be troublesome. The Light Between Oceans has flaws, but it will also make you feel. More often than not, that emotion comes naturally. We need more experiences like that at the cinema. fastfilmreviews.com

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

½

A melodrama through and through, The Light Between Oceans is at its core a pretty-looking movie about pretty-looking people being sad. The premise almost seems like a parody of prestige indie filmmaking in the 1990s. Tom (Michael Fassbender) is a shell-shocked WWI vet-turned-lighthouse keeper in Australia who falls in love with mainland lady, Isabel (Alicia Vikander). They marry and have difficulty conceiving, with Isabel enduring two grueling miscarriages. Then one day a dingy washes ashore with a crying baby inside and a dead man. Rather than alert the proper authorities, they decided to bury the man and raise the child as their own. Years later, the couple discovers the girl's real mother, Hannah (Rachel Weisz), who has been racked with unanswered grief ever since. The couple is then thrown into an emotional crucible testing their ethics and moral compromises and the question of ultimately what's in the best interest of this little girl. It's a movie that's geared to put you through an emotional wringer, and the actors do their part. Vikander (Oscar winner for The Danish Girl) is downright luminescent and dives deep into all of her character's varied and heightened emotions. The scenes of her dawning realization of the miscarriages and her helplessness are heartbreaking without being maudlin. Weisz is shaken to the core when her identity is robbed from her; she's so fragile and holding on to hope so hard you might think she'll collapse any moment. Fassbender internalizes the most and fully communicates the inner struggle of his character's guilt. Director and chief adapter Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) has made an intimate relationship drama in a beautiful, sea-swept location, and the kind of Big Feeling classy melodrama you came to expect from Anthony Minghella. The problem is that Cianfrance's characters are held too much at arm's length for resonance. We empathize but not nearly as deeply as we could, and by the end the movie washes away like the surf. Nate's Grade: B-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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