Light Between Oceans

For fans of popular books, movie adaptations can be a mixed bag. Sometimes they nail it — or believe it or not — improve on a book. But, most of the time, the cinematic experience is pale in comparison to the cerebral and highly emotional experience of the written word. The Light Between Oceans lands on DVD and Blu-Ray and fortunately for fans of the M.L. Stedman novel, it hits more often than it misses.

The film, like the book, explores some fascinating themes, from guilt, secrecy, joy, heartbreak and above all else… love. How these feelings are intertwined is the crux of writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s screenplay and his cinematic effort of bringing it to life. The Place Beyond the Pines helmer could not have been a better choice to bring Stedman’s emotionally charged prose to the screen.

Speaking of the right people for the job, casting is a huge coup as the hiring of Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherbourne, Alicia Vikander as Isabel and Rachel Weisz as Hannah as the trio of actor’s bring their A-game and dare we say, elevate the material from it’s already profound place.

Sherbourne is a WWI vet who returns home from battle, ready to spend his days alone. He has seen horrors and experienced terrors that have him wanting to keep the human race at bay. Lucky for him, he finds work as a lighthouse worker. His initial contract was for six months, but it turns into three years as the work and the worker seem to be a match made in heaven. During a brief holiday from work, he meets Isabel and immediately the sparks fly. Soon, they marry. They hope to have a child, which fails to happen, despite their longing to start a family. Then, suddenly, a small boat finds its way to his lighthouse and in it is a dead man and… a baby. The couple decides to raise the child as their own and happiness seems to finally have washed across their shores. When Weisz’s Hannah wanders into their blissful world, their happiness is shaken. See, she is looking for her husband and baby – who vanished at sea.

The Light Between Oceans raises many questions and delightfully doesn’t force the answers on its audience. It’s a compelling piece and between the terrific thespian work of its cast and keen adaptation abilities of Cianfrance, it is the rare book that finds itself a cinematic transfer that is worthy.

When it comes to bonus features, there are just a few… but they are delightful and only add to the experience of the film itself.

“Bringing The Light to Life” is a terrific documentary that unveils Cianfrance’s distinctive shooting style and how it mirrors the emotions of what the characters are experiencing onscreen. The featurette also puts a spotlight on the making of the film and shows how the cast lived in trailers on Cape Campbell, a desolate area of New Zealand. That isolationist habitation added layers to the process for the actors, as they explain in this short doc.

Another featurette to treasure is “Lighthouse Keeper.” This finds the creative team behind the film, as well as Cape Campbell Lighthouse (where it was shot) inspector/maintainer Rob Sword sharing the history of the lighthouse and exploring the daily life of what Fassbender’s Sherbourne would have experienced. After witnessing the film and then seeing this featurette, one will only become more amazed at the amazing work Fassbender did to capture the layers of a soul who would choose such an existence.

Speaking of the lighthouse itself, finding the right spot to shoot this film was another of those most important things that the filmmakers had to get right. “Lighthouse Keeper” also looks at how they zeroed in on the lighthouse they shot at and why it was it was a perfect match for the story everyone was trying to tell.

Given how Cianfrance was the true creative force behind getting this project to the masses, hearing his audio commentary is a unique experience and adds another level of depth to the entire process of experience The Light Between Oceans.

Film grade: B

Bonus Features: B