Gale force emotions – ★★★★★
Derek Cianfrance returns with another deeply compelling tale of love worlds apart in terms of setting from his 2010 outing Blue Valentine, yet similar in purpose. We follow the story of Tom Sherbourne who has recently returned home from the Western Front of World War One. It’s easy to realise Tom has seen untold horrors, thanks in part to Michael Fassbender’s thousand mile stare. He wishes for some time alone and applies to be the lighthouse keeper on Janus. While preparing to leave he encounters Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and the two experience a connection. The shy Tom is spurred on by Isabel and after a series of correspondence the pair wed increasing the population of the island 100%.
Chemistry between actors is always a tough part of any film especially when they must pretend to be in love. Here the actors are helped by the fact they became an item on set, in part mimicking Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes in The Place Beyond the Pines (Cianfrance’s last feature). This crucial heart of the film, belief that the leads are madly in love, is vital in reeling you into the melodrama about to unfold on Janus.
Melodrama almost seems like a dirty word, conjuring up cheap trashy novels or daytime soaps. Yet in many definitions of the word and putting negative connotations aside this is exactly what The Light Between Oceans is and a fine example of the genre. The plot thickens greatly when a child is heard crying in a washed up boat also containing a dead man. The couple must decide what to do, again cleverly putting us in the centre of their moral quandary. Cianfrance is an expert in slowly building a wave of emotion and you have to decide whether to let it wipe you out or bail.
The Light Between Oceans is an old fashioned afternoon matinee executed perfectly in tone and pace. It might not set the world on fire but in time will become a film people return to again and again.
The Light Between Oceans opens nationwide Tuesday the 1st of November