There’s an odd, fine line between a film that embraces pulp tearjerker elements, and one that wants to be a prestige literary drama. Derek Cianfrance mostly manages that balancing act in his adaptation of M. L. Stedman’s novel about World War I veteran Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) taking a job as keeper of a remote Australian lighthouse in 1918, and unexpectedly falling in love with Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a young woman from the nearest town. Cianfrance is patient in unfolding their relationship over the course of several years—complicated by tragedy and their mutual decision to keep a huge secret—and lingers over shots of sunsets, rippling waves, and one or the other of his stars staring pensively out at sunsets and/or rippling waves. At around the halfway point, however, the narrative pivots around the character of a heartbroken widow (Rachel Weisz), and Cianfrance seems unwilling to devote the time to her crucial backstory that would’ve kept it from feeling pinched and incomplete. Still, huge props for the casting of 4-year-old Florence Clery, who make sure that some of the most powerfully emotional moments hit their target.
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Producer: David Heyman, Jeffrey Clifford, Rosie Alison, Tom Karnowski, Jonathan King and Jeff Skoll
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, Emily Barclay, Caren Pistorius, Florence Clery, Thomas Unger, Jane Menelaus and Garry McDonald