The Light Between Oceans is heart-breaking in its depiction of love, family and loss. It opens with the blissful encounter between the war-wearied Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and the sparkling beauty Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), who saves Tom from his slow retreat into isolation and obscurity. Portraying an idealistic life on the secluded Janus Rock, Tom is based there as the lighthouse keeper or, as he sees himself, the keeper of the light. Their young marriage is tender and genuine, and thus the pain of their struggle to have children comes as an emotional punch.
Each blow becomes more traumatic and haunting, until their pain is broken by the arrival of a dilemma (in the form of an infant) in a washed up rowing-boat. The infant becomes their beacon of hope. Convinced by his wife not to endure more loss, they do not report the baby or body, but instead take her in and build a new family. It is only when they encounter the biological mother (Rachel Weisz) grieving that they realise what greater tragedy there is.
The film deals with a horrific dilemma: the existence of two separate lives for one child. The struggle between two mothers who are both victims of circumstance is heart-wrenchingly depicted, raising numerous questions over morality, love and the right to parentage. Perhaps the most effective tool used is the depiction of genuine unselfish love, which allows for forgiveness and salvation. Director Derek Cianfrance, known for his depictions of soulful love, does not fail in making the audience sympathetic to the plight of the Sherbournes, who seek some sort of light. This bittersweet adaptation of ML Stedman’s novel leads the audience to question their understandings of love, family and loyalty. There is an undeniably intense chemistry between Fassbender and Vikander throughout the film, which only enhances their performances, giving a sense of genuine affection. Expect from this film a teary tale where there are no clear answers, but only flawed humans who need the light.
Image: Gage Skidmore