This month marks our blog’s seven-year anniversary. Credit for this site goes to Bill who created it, came up with its cool look, and posts everything you see.
In figuring out what kind of movie review site this should be, Bill wanted one question answered: “What’s the best movie I’m not watching?” (Bill’s directness and clarity is as piercing and succinct as his excellent impression of Terence Stamp’s General Zod in “Superman II”). Since 2014, I’ve brought attention to good movies by writing about them but there’s only been one movie I wish I’d written about and fits Bill’s query- underrated, overlooked and a completely satisfying film surprise. In appreciation for everything he does, I’ve decided to finally answer Bill’s question. To scratch that seven year itch, here’s the review that’s long overdue …from 2016, it’s “The Light Between Oceans”.
Despite being based on a best-selling book, no one saw this movie. It only played for a couple of weeks which is probably why I didn’t bother telling people about it. What kept people away? Was it a pretentious-sounding title? Looking at the poster image on the right (again, Bill’s awesome design), an emotional embrace from lead actors Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander with the super-serious tagline “Love demands everything” seemed an invitation to be bored watching an inflated infatuation between a small-town girl and a lighthouse keeper (what?). But nothing could be further from the truth.
The film begins in 1918 when Tom (Fassbender) accepts a temporary job as a lighthouse keeper- he’s just returned from fighting in WWI and wants the quiet to escape the horrors he’s witnessed. Like “The Shining,” apart from Tom’s desire for isolation, there’s a film-noir sense of foreboding when he’s told the lighthouse keeper’s out sick after succumbing to cabin fever. His employers wish Tom were married to alleviate the loneliness but hire him anyway.
Tom’s fine at the lighthouse alone and, after three months (and the original lighthouse keeper’s suicide- more foreboding), accepts a three-year contract to maintain the lighthouse. Returning to the mainland, Tom sees the first girl he saw when he arrived: her name is Isabel (Vikander) and, just as Tom remembers, they can’t stop staring at each other. For Tom, Isabel’s beautiful; for Isabel, it’s either love at first sight or she’s looking for a ticket off the mainland.
The two have an old-fashioned courtship and marry (the chemistry between Fassbender and Vikander is undeniable- they later married in real-life and help cement any sappiness in the story). Melodrama kicks in when sap turns to sorrow: Isabel experiences two miscarriages in their first years together. Emotionally unraveling, Isabel begins to hear infant cries at her babies’ makeshift graves only to discover it’s from a real baby washed ashore.
Tom and Isabel find a dinghy with a crying baby aboard (not quite like Moses because there’s also a dead German on the boat). Tom wants to report it; Isabel wants to raise the baby as theirs. Tom knows it’s wrong but loves his wife so…bury the German and destroy evidence of miscarried baby #2.
Returning to the mainland to baptize their newly ill-gotten baby, Tom wanders into the church’s cemetery before the ceremony. He sees a grieving, inconsolable woman named Hannah (Rachel Weisz) kneeling by a grave. When Hannah leaves, Tom curiously walks to the gravestone only to see Hannah grieves for a husband and baby lost at sea. Tom recognizes the date: he and Isabel have Hannah’s kid. Filled with guilt and wanting to clear his conscience and find closure, Tom tips off Hannah with an anonymous note to ease her grief saying “baby’s fine, buried your husband.” Unfortunately for Tom, Hannah’s father is the richest guy in town and Hannah, knowing her baby’s alive, can afford to launch a costly search. Tom and Isabel’s deception is about to wreak major damage.
The beauty of watching “Light” is that it quickly blows away preconceived notions and turns into a throwback to the great melodramas and film noirs of the ‘40’s, movies like “Mildred Pierce” or “The Postman Always Rings Twice” where best intentions or love become the lead characters’ undoing. Directed by Derek Cianfrance, “Light” is like his other films (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond The Pines”): talented actors and emotional undercurrents involve you in the story. I’m a Cianfrance fan- his films create a unique sense of realism that’s rare. Had more people known what a rarity “Light” was, it might have done better at the box office.
On behalf of myself, Bill and his insanely hot
girlfriend wife (Bill’s been married 30 28 years; this is a test
to see if he edits me) (I do), thanks for spending time at our
site. We’ll continue to create this diversion until dementia envelops my brain in
a cocoon of confusion, Billy’s vices become more visible or movies stop being