Based on M.L. Stedman‘s 2012 debut novel and directed by Derek Cianfrance, The Light Between Oceans follows war veteran Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender), who returns home to Western Australia after fighting in the western trenches of World War I in Europe. After meeting and quickly falling in love with the young Isabel (Alicia Vikander), the newly married couple move to an isolated island where Tom maintains the upkeep of a working lighthouse, and Isabel gets used to married life away from her family. But as Tom struggles with his numb emotions from serving in the war, and after the heartache of not being able to start a family of their own, the couple rescue a baby girl who has washed up on an adrift rowboat. Believing their prayers may have finally been answered, Isabel encourages Tom to informally adopt her as their own but, as a man of principle, Tom is torn between reporting the lost child and pleasing the woman he loves. Against his better judgment, he agrees to let Isabel keep the child, naming her Lucy and informing their families that she is their own. But when Tom and Isabel return to the mainland a few years later, they soon discover that their actions may have had devastating consequences for the lives of others.
The following post is a review of the film only. You can read my review of the book on its own here or my comparison of the film to the book here.
After reading The Light Between Oceans and finding out that one of my favourite directors, Derek Cianfrance, would be directed the adaptation and that two of my favourite actors, Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, would be staring in the lead roles, I couldn’t have been looking forward to this film more.
Sometimes film adaptations of your favourite books can go awfully wrong (read my recent reviews of The Mountain Between Us!), but sometimes they can also become one of your favourite films.
The Light Between Oceans is now one of my favourite everythings!
The story is a heart-wrenching moral dilemma between a husband and wife, about when good people make bad decisions, dealing with a delicate topic in a claustrophobic setting and ultimately exploring the boundaries between what’s right and wrong.
With this tormenting conflict at the centre of the story, it’s easy to feel both of the characters’ desperation and suffering. The film details Isabel’s miscarriages much more than the book does, dealing with them with such a delicacy but also a rawness that these scenes will move any woman to tears (I was also pregnant whilst watching this film in the cinema so I was a blubbering mess).
Tom and Isabel are both strong characters and they are played perfectly by Fassbender and Vikander. You can see why they began a relationship in real life after filming this because their chemistry is just breathtaking to watch.
It’s a story that people will read very differently, depending on your own life experiences and moral compass. Some may find it melodramatic, others will see it is a beautiful, genuine, and heartbreaking showcase of marriage, love, and family.