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Review: ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Has Strong Acting Between Melodrama

Review: ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Has Strong Acting Between Melodrama


Derek Cianfrance’s anticipated Place Beyond The Pines follow up has Vikander and Fassbender in captivating performances.

Synopsis: 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. In the years following World War I,  a recently married couple Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) are struggling to start their family. When a rowboat with a dead man and infant girl mysteriously washes ashore, Isabel believes their prayers may have finally been answered. 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.

Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 4

The strongest element in “The Light Between the Oceans” is the stellar trio of performances from Vikander, Fassbender, and especially Weisz. Vikander and Fassbender had intense and believable chemistry which might have been all too real. Weisz delivers another strong supporting performance reminding us she is one of the great living actresses. To varying degrees, all three of these characters are hurt individuals stricken by hardship and broken dreams involving their families. I found their performances and genuine emotions to be believable and even haunting.

Despite the melodramatic turns in the story, I appreciated the somber and quieter moments courtesy of the disciplined direction of Derek Cianfrance. Cianfrance made a name for himself with smaller and somber indie love stories starring Ryan Gosling. (I have believed Gosling was ideally cast because he resembles Cianfrance as if this was a way for Derek to live vicariously though Ryan.)

Light Between Oceans Fassbender

Vikander and Fassbender had intense and believable chemistry which might have been all too real.

I admired the old fashioned, perfectly framed luscious look of “The Light Between Oceans” and found it refreshing (even when I didn’t mind for the over dramatic plot). It conveys the early 20th century era and I was drawn in by the use of lighting. If there were any issues, it was the storytelling and the motivation of the characters during the 2nd and 3rd acts, but more on that just a little later…

Entertainment Value – 3


“…storytelling and pace are can make or break a movie for me…”

I was somewhat interested but mostly disengaged with “The Light Between Oceans.” The dramatic tension and a few moments held my attention but the overall movie felt at least 20 minutes too long. Following the drama wondering how Tom and Isabel were going to reconcile their situation was the most interesting part for me. The build up to this and the prolonged ending lost my attention.

Honestly, the plot was melodramatic and sometimes even unbelievable which took me away from the moments of experiencing the drama. Unfortunately, storytelling and pace are can make or break a movie for me and this was slower. Likewise, I felt that the plot could’ve focused on other elements. I did want more character development. (Maybe this was in the book?) Asking for a movie to be shorter while demanding character development seems contradictory, but I did admire the quieter moments. I was pleased this was going to be a ride release.

Re-Watchability – 2

I will only re-watch this again when I have the desire to re-visit the work of Derek Cianfrance. He is a talent behind the camera who will mature overtime. With a long running time and a slower place, it is difficult to justify watching this again. Too bad because it looks great and has strong performances. Despite my admiration for the director and all he has accomplished in his short yet emerging career, it is just ultimately forgettable.

  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability


Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz, deliver top notch performances in a beautiful looking period drama that ultimately lost me in the melodrama.

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About The Author


Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. When he isn’t writing, Kenny channels his passion for interacting with moviegoers working as special events coordinator in the film community. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

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