It’s not hard to see how Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander fell in love while making The Light Between Oceans, opening this Friday, Sept. 2. Beautiful sunsets over stormy oceans, romantic picnics on grassy mountains, playful walks along sandy beaches, urgent kisses, wounded psyches, and their characters’ passions running rampant, all make for an intoxicating mileu.
This is one of those sweeping, beautiful period sagas that remind you why movies get made and why you pay good money to see them. Based on the 2012 novel by M.L. Stedman, it’s a classic awards season film that both your mom and your teenage niece can sink their teeth into.
Fassbender plays World War I veteran, Tom Sherbourne, the archetypal strong and silent type who has seen his share of tragedy. He arrives at a small town off the coast of Australia to man the local lighthouse and live a solitary, unencumbered life. Enter Vikander as Isabel Graysmark, daughter of the local school’s headmaster and a lighthearted, somewhat sassy beauty. She, of course, wants to save the handsome Sherbourne from what appears to be a tortured, brooding existence.
Romance obviously ensues, the two soon marry, and Isabel follows Tom to the lonely lighthouse on desolated Janus Rock—where the previous lighthouse keeper, by the way, went mad and threw himself off a cliff. But no, this isn’t another version of The Shining and instead of insanity, the duo is plagued by childlessness.
After a couple of miscarriages, Isabel becomes inconsolable. Tom is now the one who wants to be the savior, trying in vain to make his bride smile again. Not long after they bury their second lost child, a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a crying baby girl. Isabel feels it’s a sign from God and convinces the reluctant Tom to let them keep the child, name her Lucy, and raise her as their own. For a while, they live a picture-perfect life with their towheaded angel, reading books, hunting for seashells, and playing the piano.
But it wouldn’t be a heart wrenching romantic saga if everything went perfectly well after that, would it?
A few years later, while at an event back on the mainland, the couple meet a sad woman named Hannah (played excellently by Rachel Weisz), who they find out has lost her baby and husband at sea. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out Lucy is actually Hannah’s missing daughter.
Husband and wife disagree on what to do next, and Tom becomes tortured by his desire to please his wife, yet do the right thing. What ensues is a complicated struggle of right versus wrong, emotions versus ration, love versus sacrifice, conscience and consequences, and how all of this affects Tom and Isabel’s relationship.
I got wrapped up in the story—weeping, attempting to see all sides, and getting annoyed a few times as well (I didn’t love the ending), but I was also caught up in the real-life romance blossoming onscreen. It reminded me a bit of seeing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
And let’s face it, who doesn't want to see love bloom? You can see the sparks fly for yourself, when The Light Between Oceans opens in theathers on Sept. 2.