This time of the year, we begin to see movies that are hopeful to earn some Oscar nominations as well as some that I would consider Oscar bait.
This is one of those.
The Light Between Oceans is a movie with a ton of melodrama and a lot of sentimentality, targeting the kind of stuff that the Oscars love to reward. However, this felt very manipulative and intentional in its attempt for an award which makes it considerably less appealing.
Tom (Michael Fassbender) was back from World War I after years of dealing with many horrible things (or so we are told) and he is taking a job as a lighthouse keeper on an isolated island to remove himself from society and isolate himself to think. However, he meets the lovely Isabel (Alicia Vikander) and soon his thoughts turned away from the darkness and toward fancy. After a marriage, Tom and Isabel started their lives alone on the island.
Everything was not perfect though as the couple suffered two miscarriages and their hopes of being parents seemed to be ending.
Then, the first of many, many coincidences jump to the front and center as a small boat came drifting toward the island containing a dead body and a very live baby girl. Isabel convinces Tom to skip the part about reporting the dead body and the baby so they could keep the baby themselves.
Problem. During a christening, Tom runs across a grieving woman in front of a tombstone. On the tombstone, Tom reads that it is for a German man who was lost at sea with his baby for big coincidence number two. Tom begins to feel guilty about stealing this woman’s child so he leaves a note saying that the baby was alive and being cared for and loved.
The guilt of Tom was one of the least believable aspects of this film. If he truly was feeling guilty, did he really think that telling this grieving woman that her baby was alive and out in the world, but she wouldn’t see her again would be a better thing? Then they spend about three years raising the child, letting the woman wonder.
And, of course, they run into her again, this time while holding “Lucy” in their arms.
None of these people are worth anything. Each one, including Hannah the real mother (Rachel Weisz), only care about themselves. None of them cared about the little girl Lucy/Grace.
At least Tom wanted to protect Isabel from the authorities after he gave a distinct rattle as a clue to Hannah, knowing it would lead the authorities to the island. He never discusses it with his wife, though, choosing instead to surprise her.
Then poor Lucy/Grace wound up being pulled between the two moms for a good chunk of the end of this movie.
Listen, Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander are very good in these roles. The fact that I had any emotional connection to these rotten people are based solely on how talented those two actors are. But this is nothing more than a grab for nominations, and really not a very good one. The story betrays this film much sooner than Tom betrays Isabel and vice versa.
The one area where this film may secure an Oscar nom is in the area of cinematography. There are amazing shots of the ocean and the sunsets and the storms that are sweeping in nature and absolutely spectacular to view. Adam Arkapaw does a brilliant job with the shots throughout the entire movie.
I didn’t quite hate this as much as it sounds, but the emotional manipulation and contrived coincidences were a lot to take. There were some good performances, despite characters doing stupid things, and it is certainly a beautiful to watch film. Unfortunately, the story just could not see the light.