Saturday, 27 August 2016

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Turgid Tedium Rules Romance

The Light Between Oceans (2016)
Dir. Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander,
Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Early into this historical romance, the two lovers-to-be (Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander) go for an extra-long picnic, walking and talking ad nauseum through hilly, seemingly treeless and wide-open Aussie wilderness until, settling several hours later on a cliff overlooking a gorgeous sunset on the ocean, they kiss and profess their love for each other. As Alexandre Desplat's ludicrously lush score throbs over cinematographer Adam Arkapaw's dull picture-postcard images, all I could think about was when, where and for how long did our lovebirds relieve themselves of waste matter. Worse yet, I wondered about how the two deposited heavier loads with no apparent evidence of toilet paper.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last thing one should be thinking about in any romance are bowel movements, but think about them, I did - long and hard. And as the film plodded along, I thought about my own need to relieve myself. Thank heaven for tender mercies.

The Light Between Oceans had plenty of potential to be a weepy in the 40s Warner Bros. tradition, but alas it suffers from a horrendously miscast leading lady and worse yet, plods along to a relatively safe denouement.

Fassbender and Vikander play a newly married couple living an Eden-like existence on a remote island - its only practical reason for being is to provide a lighthouse to guide ships from its rocky shores and towards the safe harbours about 100 miles away. We watch them boink like minks, but their attempts to generate progeny result in not one, but two - count 'em - still births. Vikander takes it especially badly. When a small boat washes ashore with a dead man and a living, breathing newborn baby, she petulantly, selfishly insists that Fassbender bury the evidence of the obviously real Daddy and keep the child for themselves.

For what seems like several hours of running time, we watch our couple raise the child as if it were their own. Alas, back on shore, there is the baby's real grieving mother. Rachel Weisz suffers quite magnificently in this role - so much so that occasional sojourns to the mainland by our baby-napping couple inspire Fassbender's guilt to overwhelm him.

Needless to say, things will probably not turn out too well. Unfortunately, instead of some really unbearable suffering, we're dealt the unkindest cut of all, a relatively happy ending tinged with bittersweetness. Some of the melodramatic elements in the movie do indeed work in a rudimentary sledgehammer fashion, but neither the screenplay nor the direction take brave enough steps into completely ludicrous tear-wrenching territory - it's all eventually so bloody tasteful.

Under the circumstances, Fassbender and Weisz acquit themselves nicely and it's great seeing Aussie stalwarts like Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson in top form, but the ubiquitous Alicia Vikander pretty much upends the whole picture. She seldom wipes the dimple-inducing smile from her face and even when she expresses sadness or desperation, there's more giddiness in her visage than anything remotely real or harrowing. In fact, her dimples become so bothersome, one wants to pave them over with cement. Most embarrassing are her line-readings which seem oddly anachronistic. Ultimately, Vikander galumphs her way through the proceedings with such misplaced intensity that the movie galumphs alongside her.


The Light Between Oceans opened the 2016 Venice Film Festival and is now in wide release via Disney.