As is too often the case, something appears to have been lost in the translation from page to film in the screen adaptation of the acclaimed M.L. Stedman novel from 2012, The Light Between Oceans. As much as is possible, it’s my policy to see a film before reading its source material so it goes without saying that I haven’t read Stedman’s novel. Still, I can’t help but believe that said novel would be a more emotionally rewarding experience than the resulting film, which is filled with stodgy characters and emotionally stilted scenes throughout its running time. Only during the final section does the film actually come alive when the characters are allowed to behave more like real humans as opposed to stiff caricatures. Unfortunately, at this juncture the film has reached its inevitable point of no return, at least in terms of an emotional investment in the characters.
As far as star power goes, the film has that much going for it due to the casting of recent awards season darlings, Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender. Fassbender is Tom Sherbourne in the film and he’s a former soldier suffering from PTSD in the period following his stint on the western front during WWI. Tom returns to Australia in the hopes of sorting things out and takes a job as a lighthouse caretaker, a position that will allow him time to think and figure out the next move. Life has other plans for him in the form of young beauty, Isabel Graysmith (Vikander). They meet, fall in love, and share an idyllic life together on the island until it’s discovered that Isabel can’t have children (after two miscarriages). When a rowboat containing a dead man and an infant that’s very much alive turns up, it looks as if Isabel’s wishes for a child have been answered. Of course, it’s obvious that the decision to keep the child without notifying the authorities will inevitably come back to haunt the couple.
The Light Between Oceans isn’t a bad film so much as it’s just a bland one. It’s one of those films that seems like it’s trying so hard to hit the plot points found in the book that it forgets to inject the proceedings with any sense of real emotion for the majority of the film. The key to successfully adapting books isn’t to make sure that every plot point is shoehorned in but rather to sustain the emotional connection that connects the reader to the book. The Light Between Oceans leaves no plot point unturned but also leaves the viewer cold for far too many gaps in its unspooling.
The Light Between Oceans begins playing at the Carmike this Friday, Sept. 2, and all over the area.
Fassbender & Vikander in ‘Light’
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