It hit me a while ago that I’ve failed to post a reaction to Derek Cianfrance‘s The Light Between Oceans (Disney, 9.2). Now that I’m packing and attending to last-minute stuff I’m not sure I have the time. Or the will. Maybe on tomorrow morning’s flight to Denver? Or I could just blow it off. Okay, I’ll push something out now.
I’m not feeling much beyond what everyone else is feeling or saying — an impressive first hour or so, a bit morose but well-rendered, and then the film goes full-hurt crazy, the wrong move, tears streaming or held back, stunned, swallowed up, “oh what to do”? A guilt-and-suffer opera.
Michael Fassbender is fine (grim, fully committed, extra-solemn) but he’s still Fassbender. A heaving, pull-out-the-stops performance by Alicia Vikander that makes you want to cower at times. Rachel Weitz‘s performance is all-in but measured. She never turns the spigot on full blast.
The mesmerizing cinematography by Adam Arkapaw and the fleet editing by Jim Helton and Ron Patane are the two finest elements. You could just watch this thing without listening to it, and you wouldn’t have the slightest trouble following the story. That’s a sign of strong cinema, no?
If you ask me Vikander is playing Lady Macbeth here. A woman driven half-mad by an inability to have a child, and so others must pay.
“I’m hurting so bad because I’ve had two miscarriages,” she seems to say to herself, “and therefore I can do anything to take my pain away. Including adopting an infant girl who just happened to be in a rowboat that we found floating close to shore. With a dead guy in it but we’ll put that aside for now. The point is that my pain matters more than anyone or anything else. If the real mother has to suffer the loss of her child, so be it. And if my husband wants to protect me…I’m getting ahead of myself.”