Alicia Vikander, an Oscar winner for The Danish Girl, returned to the Lido in The Light Between Oceans, an old-fashioned, buttoned-down, almost-Dickensian, period melodrama co-starring her apparently real-life partner Michael Fassbender, in which the pair hole up as husband and wife lighthouse keepers on a godforsaken island called Janus, lighting the titular light which guides ships from the northern hemisphere to the southern.
If initially they look happy in their solitude, there’s a storm brewing for sure. After two miscarriages, Vikander’s Isabel is an emotional wreck but, out of the deep blue, a rowing boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a live baby, which Mrs Lighthouse elects to keep and raise as her own.
She convinces her husband not to report the event, and he gives in to her beseeching, for some reason. All of which has tragic repercussions when the folks back on the mainland get involved, particularly a mysterious grieving widow played by Rachel Weisz.
Director Derek Cianfrance has done great stuff before – Blue Valentine was heartbreaking at a relationship hitting the rocks and The Place Beyond The Pines was terrific on the effects of time on fathers, mothers and children – so this should have worked. But everyone comes a cropper.
First of all, how come this dead end town in lord-knows-where (the film’s unspecific geography is infuriating) can harbour two women as beautiful as Rachel Weisz and Alicia Vikander? And I just didn’t believe the huge plot shifts nor any of the characters’ behaviour.
And it goes on for hours, drowning in another dreary, vague score from Alexandre Desplat. I thought it’d never end, and actually it doesn’t really, supplying one of those awful “30 years later” codas which requires Fassbender to act 70 years old, which basically means he puts on a cardie, smears some grey in his hair and sits in a comfy chair. A misfire, a very palpable misfire.