THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Ocean’ is beautiful but shallow

Published 11:07 pm Thursday, September 1, 2016

“The Light Between Oceans” is a gorgeous film. It is filled with breathtaking images of sunsets, desolate beaches and the ever-present ocean. If the film only wanted to be a glossy coffee table book, it would be a smashing success.

But “The Light Between Oceans” isn’t a photo book, which means that as a movie, the audience is expecting story and interesting characters as well. All the beautiful cinematography in the world can’t gloss over the fact that these characters never quite feel like flesh and blood creations, keeping the film from achieving any true emotion power.

Michael Fassbender plays Tom, a haunted World War I veteran who returns home to Australia and accepts a lighthouse keeper position on a Janus island. It is a desolate place, which suits the man who would prefer some alone time as he deals with the trauma of his wartime experiences.

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Enter Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a vivacious young woman who can tell that there is a good man lurking underneath Tom’s scraggy exterior. Sparks fly and the two are married and hoping to start a family out on the remote island, but tragedy strikes when Isabel miscarries twice. Obviously, the couple is devastated.

A glimmer of hope arrives when a boat carrying a dead man and an infant girl washes up on shore. The couple decides that this is a gift from God and decides to raise the girl as their own. It’s a plan destined for trouble, as the girl’s mother (Rachel Weisz) is out there grieving for her child.

It ends up being a love triangle of sorts with the adorable little girl caught between the parents who raised her and the mother she’s never known. It has all the makings of a superb emotional drama, which is why it’s such a disappointment that the film is so emotionally inert.

I can’t blame the actors, who have their emotions turned up to full power. The film is filled with all manner of evocative close-ups of crying faces. At the very least, this should make for a nice melodrama. The problem seems to lie in the screenplay, which is already over-stuffed, yet somehow doesn’t include the elements of daily life that might have given the characters some bit of humanity.

The screenplay is also filled with some horrible dialogue. I don’t know if this was also the case in M.L. Stedman’s book, but the end result is a film that you can’t take seriously because of all the clunky lines the actors are forced to mouth.

“The Light Between Oceans” isn’t a total bust—the juicy story and amazing cinematography will certainly keep you entertained. The problem is the execution of the story, which never rings true and turns the film into a mediocre melodrama at best.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at