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The Light Between Oceans [2016]

The Light Between Oceans [2016]: The new romantic drama starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander and adapted from the novel by M. L. Stedman. Derek Cianfrance, pulling double duty as both director and screenwriter, directs a cast that also includes Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, and Jack Thompson.

Act What’s Real: Everyone knows Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who became a real-life item during the production of this film, are great actors. Their chemistry is apparent early on, even if gleaming with the Nicholas Sparks-esque sweetness that’ll appease the “Lonely with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s” crowd (no offense; we’ve all been there, right?). Still, for a drama film, it is strange to see these performers not only unchallenged by the script but flat as a board in terms of dynamic growth. This fault is not thrown toward the stars, but rather the decidedly drab screenplay.

The Boredom Between Scenes: As a narrative pining about the strength of love and the woes of isolationism, The Light Between Oceans struggles to gain footing through its sluggish pacing and unclear intentions. While I would rather leave the main plot point ambiguous (yes, one does eventually emerge), it is disappointing to see a film simultaneously so visually astounding, yet so drudgingly dull. Indeed, a full hour passed by before anything beyond sappy sentimentality between Fassbender and Vikander emerged from this questionably mixed cocktail of a film. With a runtime clocking just over two hours, it is telling that only half the film has an actual story to convey. Going in with no expectations or trailers in mind, I mistakenly began to think I was watching a murky character study on a man torn between romance and isolation, but when that notion was proven wrong, all I could do was silently scoff at all the misleading subtext of the film. Make no mistake, this is a boring movie with an ending that constantly feels miles away, never to be confused with any great film that was deliberately slow-paced.

A Riptide Unto Itself: This is a conflicted story with two remarkably different ideas of what it could be; one being the aforementioned character study on Fassbender, while the other is the dramatic tale that pokes its head out at the halfway point. I would love to elaborate on which is better, but truth be told, the answer is neither. If the script wasn’t literally pulling away from its own intentions, there might be a clearer idea of what did or could’ve made this film tick. Alas, what we are given is a confused narrative that leaves one wondering what the opening scenes have to do with the closing ones. There is no rounded arc, no foreshadowed growth of character, and no payoff for what amounts to two hours of monotony wrapped in gorgeous visuals and honey-roasted mawkishness.

House Lights On, Quiet Exit: The Light Between Oceans is not absurdly terrible, nor can it be categorized as good. It’s a film that just is. For the most lovey-dovey among filmgoers, perhaps a good date night will coincide with a movie like this. For the rest of us, there’s no need to rush out and waste two hours that would be better spent hunting Pokémon or writing an article roughly twice as long as this one. Save your money; go make yourself a nice dinner, do a light workout, fall in love, play a video game. Just do something that gives you some sort of fulfillment. This movie will give you none.

 

Relentlessly sentimental and bafflingly inconsistent in its narrative intentions,
even the strong chemistry of Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander can’t save
The Light Between Oceans from feeling mercilessly long and unfocused.

The Light Between Oceans [2016]
1.5Overall Score
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