The Light Between Oceans

Posted on September 1, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Discussion of wartime violence and loss, miscarriages, dead body
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 2, 2016
Date Released to DVD: January 23, 2017 ASIN: B01LDWUQ4I

Copyright Disney 2016
Copyright Disney 2016
The lighthouse is on an island called Janus, and the lighthouse keeper explains that it is named for the two-faced god who is memorialized in the first month of each year, January. One face looks to the past, the other to the future — “two ways of looking at things.”

The theme of duality and perspective resonates throughout this story of the lighthouse keeper, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander), we see how two ways of looking at things can balance or unbalance each other.

Tom is a WWI veteran who tells the man looking for a temporary lighthouse keeper that he is not worried about the isolation of the job. “I just want to get away from things for a little while.” His mother died and he had a father who was so dictatorial that the regimentation of the military was a relief. We do not learn much about his wartime experiences except that they were brutal. He is, as he later admits, numb. The solitude and order of the lighthouse suits him.

But he meets the lively and warm-hearted Isabel, who impetuously proposes marriage, and realizes how much he had been longing for connection. She tells him, “You still have a light inside you, and I have seen it.” And he writes back, “I’ve never known it was all right to talk about the things I feel.”

They marry and are blissfully happy in their tiny little island. But after two harrowing miscarriages, Isabel is devastated. When a boat washes up near the shore containing a dead man and a crying baby, it seems that providence has given them what they were missing. It seems that way to Isabel. Tom knows that he must put the truth into his log and return the baby to her family. But Isabel is desperately in love with the child and insists that they can give her what she needs. Tom, who has promised to do everything he can to make her happy, agrees.

They adore the baby, who they name Lucy. But when Tom sees a woman sobbing in a graveyard (Rachel Weisz) and realizes she is probably Lucy’s real mother, his conscience begins to torture him. They have inflicted on her the same agony that they suffered.

The story gets soapy, and the tinkly piano score from Alexandre Desplat and scenes of waves crashing on the shore suggest literary pretensions that may work better in the acclaimed novel than they do on screen. But Fassbender and Vikander, two of the most compelling actors ever to appear on film, give powerful performances, and their on-screen chemistry, which turned into real-life romance, holds the film together when the story wavers.

Parents should know that this film has discussion of wartime violence and loss, miscarriages, a dead body, and devastating grief.

Family discussion: Who should raise Lucy? Why did she want to see Tom again? Was Frank right about forgiveness?

If you like this, try: “The Widow of Saint-Pierre”

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