After serving in World War I, Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) takes a job tending to a lighthouse. The lighthouse is on Janus Island, 100 miles away from the nearest land. He will have very little contact with anyone else, save for an occasional shipment of supplies. The job is only a 3 month assignment, and Tom could use the time alone to deal with the things he saw in the war.
When circumstances turn the 3 month assignment into a long-term position, Tom takes a brief hiatus to return to the mainland. While there, Tom proposes to and marries Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), a woman he met briefly when he originally accepted the job. Isabel and Tom return to Janus Island to begin their life together.
Several years into their marriage, Tom and Isabel spot a small boat floating in the ocean. When they pull it ashore, they find a baby inside the boat. They raise the young girl, Lucy (Florence Clery), as their own. However, Tom’s guilt about not reporting the find eats away at him. During a trip to the mainland, Tom makes a decision that will forever change their lives.
The Light Between Oceans, based on the novel of the same name by M.L. Stedman, tells a heartbreaking tale of a couple who take on an isolated life who make some difficult choices. Perfect casting pairs Michael Fassbender with Alicia Vikander. There is real chemistry between them, which comes naturally as the two are dating in real life. You can feel every emotion Tom and Isabel experience as they adjust to every facet of their new lives. Florence Clery, as young Lucy, is almost too cute for words. Above that, she puts in an amazing performance for such a young actor.
Where this movie excels is in the cinematography. Wide shots of sweeping landscapes are beautifully executed. The small island is the main backdrop for the film. Given such a small landscape to work with, you get to experience every aspect of life on the island. This alone is a reason to watch it on a large screen.
The story is fairly original. The first half of the film shows the building of Tom and Isabel’s relationship. It isn’t until nearly the halfway mark that Lucy shows up and changes their lives. This is, perhaps, where the film’s major issue surfaces. Pacing. So much time is spent on developing the characters and those many times silent long shots of the island that you start to lose interest, wondering when the main plot point, Lucy, will make her appearance. From there, years pass in an instant. The story skips around a bit. Everything leads up to an ending that seems abrupt and a bit unsatisfying.
With fine performances and well-done visuals, The Light Between Oceans is an acceptable film. Uneven storytelling and a long run time (clocking in at 2:12) mar what could have been an excellent film. If they had cut 20-30 minutes, it would have been a much better film. As is, it is a passable film that lets you appreciate the talent of the actors.