I read The Light Between Oceans for book club back in 2013, and I loved the book (4 stars). When I saw that this was going to be a movie, I knew I needed to see it right away. I made plans to go with a friend as soon as we were both available, and when she wasn’t able to go because she was sick, I went by myself. I didn’t want to miss it. (I’m really bad at watching movies at home. Unless it’s a movie Jim will enjoy too, I just never find the time.)
This story is so emotional. First there’s a love story, and then there is the harsh reality of life on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean. There are struggles with pregnancy and the kidnapping of a child who washes ashore in a boat with her dead father. The relationships between the husband and wife are very interesting. The haunted life of the child’s real mother is raw. The themes of guilt run deep. In short, it’s a gripping book.
But…it didn’t really make a good movie. The movie was very well done. They hit all the high points, as far as I could remember (considering I read the book 3 years ago). The characters were spot on. Tom is just as quiet and aloof as he is in the book. Isabel is sweet and innocent in the beginning, and Alicia Vikander played the depressed woman perfectly after the miscarriages (although I think there were really 3 in the book). She is maybe not quite as persuasive as she is in the book. Tom relented to the whole kidnapping plan a little easier in the movie.
The setting was also perfect. The island didn’t exactly match my imagination, but it was kind of unbelievable to see the conditions that someone was expected to live under to run the lighthouse. I cannot even imagine living in that remote of a location. As much as I might say I’d like to be alone to just read, I would not want to be that isolated.
While Tom, Isabel, and baby Lucy do visit the mainland every couple of years, the majority of the movie is them alone on the island. And it’s just kind of slow. I enjoyed the movie because I was cataloging in my head how well they’d done with the interpretation, but I can imagine that not having read the book, this movie would have been rather dull.
I really like Michael Fassbender, so seeing him as someone other than a young Erik/Magneto (X-Men) was fun. If you want to see him cry, watch this movie. There is a lot of crying by many characters.
Rating: As an interpretation of the story, I give it 5 stars, but as a movie, I rate it only 3 stars.