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Last night I went to an advance screening of The Light Between Oceans, the new movie based on the novel by M.L. Stedman. I’d been dreaming all day of eating a popcorn and Bunch-A-Crunch dinner. Like, I planned my entire day around it and showed up at the screening very hungry.
But the concession line was massive, and I didn’t have time. Frustrated, I went back to my seat with my stomach rumbling. And for the first ten minutes or so of the movie, I was noticing what the people around me were eating. The woman to the left of me had nachos. The woman to the right had popcorn and some kind of candy or chocolate in a super loud wrapper. It was torture. And I started wondering if my hunger was going to distract me from the movie.
But then the movie took over, and I forgot that I was hungry. And afterward, as I sat in a touristy food court steps from the theater, I was in a bit of a daze. Part of it was because I was dehydrated. I basically did the ugly cry for the last third of the movie. But mostly, it was because I was still absorbed in the movie. And I woke up this morning feeling the same way. This movie is going to be with me for a while.
I haven’t read the book. Except for seeing one trailer, I went into the movie totally blind. I’m going to read it now, though. I want to get deeper into the minds of the two main characters. A movie can only do so much, not matter how good it is.
The basic story is about a wife who convinces her husband to do something that he knows is very, very wrong. The plot involves two love stories, both beautifully told, and a child who connects them both. The tiny actress playing the little girl is a revelation. Much of the plot hinges on her selling her part of the story, and boy does she ever.
The main characters are played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne), Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs), and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Lobster). They are all perfectly cast and give gut-wrenching performances in three very different roles. Themes of love, loss, and what it means to be a parent are all explored.
Many people have referred to the book (and, presumably, the movie) as a tearjerker, but I don’t think that title quite fits. To me, “tearjerker” implies something manipulative, something designed to just make you cry and then buy something, like a soup commercial. The emotions that this movie brought up inside of me came from much deeper. I couldn’t help but sympathize with all three characters, and knowing that in their own way each one was right just tore me apart.
My only complaint about the movie is the end, which I think is deeply flawed. Not the ending, not the plot points, but how the last ten minutes or so of the movie revealed themselves. It was too abrupt. I needed more, especially more of Alicia’s character. I could have used another ten minutes. I felt like there was a catharsis to be had, but the movie didn’t give me time to have it. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ll be seeking that closure in the book – I hope it’s there.
None of that should stop you from seeing the movie, though. My dissatisfaction with the ending did not dampen my enthusiasm for the movie. I wish there were more movies like this, that take their time letting the characters develop before things go sideways. It was immensely satisfying to see such great actors tear into these roles.
The Light Between Oceans opens nationwide on Friday, September 2nd.