‘The Light Between Oceans’ shines a light on a difficult moral dilemma

Michael Fassbender in ‘The Light Between Oceans’

“You can’t patch a wounded soul with a Band-Aid.” – Michael Connelly

During World War I, some of the most intense fighting took place in the Western Trenches.  After spending years in those trenches, Australian “Tom Sherbourne” (Michael Fassbender) comes home in search of quiet time to heal the wounds to his soul.  He lands the perfect job in the ideal place for this healing, on remote Janus Rock off the West Coast of Australia as the lighthouse keeper.  The only human contact the keeper has is with the occasional supply ship.

Michael Fassbender stars and Alicia Vikander in 'The Light Between Oceans'
Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander in ‘The Light Between Oceans’

Things take an abrupt change of direction just prior to Tom’s departure for his new home.  He is introduced to “Isabel Graysmark” (Alicia Vikander) and she sees there is more to this man than just the world-weary look of him.  She senses a depth within that no one else has seen.  After a very brief time together he leaves for Janus Rock and she remains at home.  They exchange letters detailing their feelings via those supply ships and eventually he comes to town and proposes marriage.  Did they rush into their union because being the keeper’s wife was the only way for Isabel to come to Janus Rock?

They are very much in love and as a result their existence becomes idyllic.  Soon Isabel is pregnant and the couple encounter their first tragedy.  They bury the child and try to move on, but when the second child they conceive also fails to survive childbirth, Isabel is crushed.

Michael Fassbender in ‘The Light Between Oceans’

If a dinghy had not washed up on the shore of Janus soon after this there is no knowing what might have transpired.  But inside the dinghy was a dead adult and a live infant.  Tom wants to note this in the light house log but Isabel eventually convinces him that they can keep the girl and pass her off as their child.  Wanting so much to make Isabel smile again, Tom ignores his better judgment and agrees.

The consequences of this choice come crashing down on Tom during a visit to town a few years later.   He learns that “Hannah Roennfeldt” (Rachel Weisz) is still haunted by the loss of her daughter and husband.  Tortured by guilt, Tom makes a decision that could ruin the life that he and Isabel have built.

Rachel Weisz in ‘The Light Between Oceans’

The Light Between Oceans is a mixture of a love story with a tale of moral dilemmas.  Doing the right thing can come with a steep price if one made the wrong choices in the past.  The interweaving of the two is effective.  The stellar casting of Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz enhances what is a very visually enjoyable film.  The island, the ocean and even the town where Isabel and Tom met all make terrific backdrops against which we watch an engaging tale unwind.  All three of the leads are great but there is something about how Rachel Weisz goes from crushed to ecstatic to resigned that stands out among the performances.  The ending is unpredictable.

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