Director and co-writer Robert Eggers continues the unpleasant but gripping work he began with his debut The Witch, or at least the aspect of it that has to do with taking the measure of a man. Then, the sins of a father were visited upon his children after he let his pride get the better of him and set himself up as the head of his own church and the ruler of his own kingdom. Now, Eggers sets up Robert Pattinson (and his somewhat slippery accent) as a young man who dreams of the very same thing — a place of his own, with no one telling him what to do. “Same old boring story,” snorts boss Willem Dafoe in between farts and rants and accusations that Pattinson is falling down on the job. And what a job: assistant lighthouse keeper on a godforsaken rock, made to do everything except what he wants: keep company with the light. Exactly how much of a man he is seems to have a great deal to do with how much shit he’s willing to eat — from his boss, from nature, from the whole rotten, rotting world. (A world that includes his mortal coil and its rather insistent desires.) If he can’t take it, why then, he’s just a self-pitying child. Or worse, a dog. Or worse… It’s rough going, but it’s beautifully filmed and framed in black and white, and Dafoe is wild and wildly entertaining in a role that feels written to match his every aspect. (2019) — Matthew Lickona
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