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Director enjoys making his characters suffer in The Light Between Oceans

Steady torrents of anguish

A dingbat stole my baby: Alicia Vikander and Florence Clery in The Light Between Oceans.
A dingbat stole my baby: Alicia Vikander and Florence Clery in The Light Between Oceans.

Light is hardly the word to describe the melodramatic slog that awaits viewers in writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans.

After a tour of killing Jerrys in the Great War, bachelor Tom (Oscar®-nominee Michael Fassbender) returns to Australia, where he plans on settling down as a lighthouse keeper. Bachelorette #1 Isabel (Oscar®-winner Alicia Vikander) is the town looker, making her, in accordance with Hollywood’s rule of keeping up surface appearances, the girl in the picture. In this year’s clumsiest apportioning of verbal foreshadowing, Isabel introduces childhood mortality on their first date. Tom doesn’t think twice when Isabel asks for his hand.

Those who witnessed Cianfrance’s debut feature, Blue Valentine, know how much he enjoys making his characters (and audiences) suffer. Not surprisingly, the steady torrents of anguish (and all that artificial light designed to bleach out the suffocating interior closeups) make these oceans difficult to access. After a pair of miscarriages, Isabel decides that fate has destined her to play mother to the little girl who, along with her dead father, washes up on shore in a rowboat. This is Cianfrance’s one chance to lighten the load, to unleash a little visual magic to boost the narrative contrivance, and all he can summon are handheld shots of crashing foam.

Tom suggests reporting their findings to the police and then waiting a few months before legally adopting the child, a notion Isabel quickly poo-poos. Don’t you hate it when a character holds onto an object — in this case, a baby’s rattle that Tom discovers when burying the girl’s father — for no other reason than a nonimaginational author who couldn’t devise a less convenient way to build narrative conflict?

Enter baby mama Hannah (Oscar®-winner, Rachel Weisz), who, along with the help of the aforementioned plaything, quickly gets hip to the couple’s game. Isabel is such an irrational, unlikeable cur that at any minute, one expects Hannah to scream, “The dingbat stole my baby!”

Movie

Light Between Oceans

thumbnail

After a tour of killing Jerrys in the Great War, bachelor Tom (Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender) returns to Australia, where he plans on settling down as a lighthouse keeper. Isabel (Oscar winner Alicia Vikander) is the town looker, making her, in accordance with Hollywood’s rule of keeping up surface appearances, the girl in the picture. Those who witnessed writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s debut feature Blue Valentine know how much he enjoys making his characters (and audiences) suffer. Not surprisingly, the steady torrents of anguish (and all that artificial light designed to bleach out the suffocating interior closeups) make these oceans difficult to access. After a pair of miscarriages, Isabel decides that fate has destined her to play mother to the little girl who washes up on shore in a rowboat. This is Cianfrance’s one chance to lighten the load, to unleash a little visual magic to boost the narrative contrivance, and all he can summon are handheld shots of crashing foam. Enter baby mama Hannah (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz), who quickly gets hip to the couple’s game. Isabel is such an irrational, unlikeable cur that at any minute, one expects Hannah to scream, “The dingbat stole my baby!” A melodramatic slog.

Find showtimes

For a couple who fell in love during the making of the picture, precious little of Fassbender and Vikander’s off-screen scintillation finds its way to the multiplex. Void of depth and shading, they’re designed simply to push the tired plot from point to point. One is more likely to find character backstory in an introductory segment on TV’s The Bachelor.

Those hankering for the blush of real-life romance to make the leap onto celluloid would be better off watching Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in Heaven Can Wait or Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis in The Fly. And if you’re looking for a film about a deranged parent so desperate to possess a kid of their own that they’d resort to kidnapping (and worse), buy a ticket to Don’t Breathe.

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A dingbat stole my baby: Alicia Vikander and Florence Clery in The Light Between Oceans.
A dingbat stole my baby: Alicia Vikander and Florence Clery in The Light Between Oceans.

Light is hardly the word to describe the melodramatic slog that awaits viewers in writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans.

After a tour of killing Jerrys in the Great War, bachelor Tom (Oscar®-nominee Michael Fassbender) returns to Australia, where he plans on settling down as a lighthouse keeper. Bachelorette #1 Isabel (Oscar®-winner Alicia Vikander) is the town looker, making her, in accordance with Hollywood’s rule of keeping up surface appearances, the girl in the picture. In this year’s clumsiest apportioning of verbal foreshadowing, Isabel introduces childhood mortality on their first date. Tom doesn’t think twice when Isabel asks for his hand.

Those who witnessed Cianfrance’s debut feature, Blue Valentine, know how much he enjoys making his characters (and audiences) suffer. Not surprisingly, the steady torrents of anguish (and all that artificial light designed to bleach out the suffocating interior closeups) make these oceans difficult to access. After a pair of miscarriages, Isabel decides that fate has destined her to play mother to the little girl who, along with her dead father, washes up on shore in a rowboat. This is Cianfrance’s one chance to lighten the load, to unleash a little visual magic to boost the narrative contrivance, and all he can summon are handheld shots of crashing foam.

Tom suggests reporting their findings to the police and then waiting a few months before legally adopting the child, a notion Isabel quickly poo-poos. Don’t you hate it when a character holds onto an object — in this case, a baby’s rattle that Tom discovers when burying the girl’s father — for no other reason than a nonimaginational author who couldn’t devise a less convenient way to build narrative conflict?

Enter baby mama Hannah (Oscar®-winner, Rachel Weisz), who, along with the help of the aforementioned plaything, quickly gets hip to the couple’s game. Isabel is such an irrational, unlikeable cur that at any minute, one expects Hannah to scream, “The dingbat stole my baby!”

Movie

Light Between Oceans

thumbnail

After a tour of killing Jerrys in the Great War, bachelor Tom (Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender) returns to Australia, where he plans on settling down as a lighthouse keeper. Isabel (Oscar winner Alicia Vikander) is the town looker, making her, in accordance with Hollywood’s rule of keeping up surface appearances, the girl in the picture. Those who witnessed writer-director Derek Cianfrance’s debut feature Blue Valentine know how much he enjoys making his characters (and audiences) suffer. Not surprisingly, the steady torrents of anguish (and all that artificial light designed to bleach out the suffocating interior closeups) make these oceans difficult to access. After a pair of miscarriages, Isabel decides that fate has destined her to play mother to the little girl who washes up on shore in a rowboat. This is Cianfrance’s one chance to lighten the load, to unleash a little visual magic to boost the narrative contrivance, and all he can summon are handheld shots of crashing foam. Enter baby mama Hannah (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz), who quickly gets hip to the couple’s game. Isabel is such an irrational, unlikeable cur that at any minute, one expects Hannah to scream, “The dingbat stole my baby!” A melodramatic slog.

Find showtimes

For a couple who fell in love during the making of the picture, precious little of Fassbender and Vikander’s off-screen scintillation finds its way to the multiplex. Void of depth and shading, they’re designed simply to push the tired plot from point to point. One is more likely to find character backstory in an introductory segment on TV’s The Bachelor.

Those hankering for the blush of real-life romance to make the leap onto celluloid would be better off watching Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in Heaven Can Wait or Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis in The Fly. And if you’re looking for a film about a deranged parent so desperate to possess a kid of their own that they’d resort to kidnapping (and worse), buy a ticket to Don’t Breathe.

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come on, Marks, it's not as if Gianfranco was Tom Six!!!

Sept. 6, 2016

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