Closing out a summer season full of super heroes butting heads against a big budget backdrop of excitement comes a film adaptation of M.L. Stedman’s bestselling novel, “The Light Between Oceans”. Hungry for a break from the typical Hollywood fare, we found ourselves at the main theater of Disney Studios for a screening of this new drama about the damage and silver linings that come with complicated love.
“The Light Between Oceans” follows the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife Isabel, who take up residence on an isolated island off the coast of England for the purpose of maintaining the lighthouse. They are the perfect couple, sticking by each other in times of hardship and displaying a fervent loyalty to one another despite their opposite personalities. Tragedy strikes, however, when Isabel is plagued by miscarriages as she tries to conceive, putting a strain on her mental health and their relationship. Because of this, it seems to be a miracle when a baby washes up on their shores with a dead man in the boat. Fearing a low chance of being chosen to adopt, the loving couple decides to keep it quiet and pretend the baby is there’s. The main conflict of the story comes when the true mother of the baby is discovered years later, and the couple is met with an ethical conflict as to who can call themselves the true parents.
The movie offers many interesting philosophical questions about the nature of love and relationships. Like most movies that come out these days, there are no real villains, and the audience is left feeling sympathy for both sides of the struggle for this child. That being said, the movie can be a little slow at points, especially in the beginning. I also have to admit that the on-screen chemistry between Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander can seem a bit awkward and forced at times. Overall, it’s a great movie once you really get into the story, and it was also nice to see Rachel Weisz back on the silver screen.
Three Life Lessons to Take Away from “The Light Between Oceans”
- There are Consequences to Your Actions, Even if You Mean Well
Tom and Isabel believe they are doing the right thing when they take the child in. Despite their own selfish reasons, there is still something objectively selfless about taking an orphan child in after they’ve experienced something so traumatic. However, the situation becomes complicated when the true mother turns out to be alive and in tremendous grief. The couple is met with a dilemma, and they are in very deep with the intricate lie they spun about the origin of the child. When the law finally comes to set things straight, the young girl is confused, wanting to return to her “real” mother. The psychological toll this takes on everyone involved is profound, and it begs the question of what the true consequences are of “doing the right thing”.
- It is Better to Forgive than to Hold a Grudge
The young couple faces a lengthy prison sentence as a result of their lies, and at first, the child’s true mother is bitter and hurt by the alienation that developed between her and her daughter. However, she is inspired by something her late husband said to eventually forgive the couple and argue for a lesser punishment. “You only have to forgive once,” the film says, and indeed, this seems to be the right course of action. Despite the mess they caused with their selfishness, Tom and Isabel are allowed to seek redemption with the fact that, in the end, they saved a life, and that’s all that really matters.
- Ethnic Bigotry: The True Villain
The events of this film take place in England during the early 1920’s, a few years after the end of the Great War. Tom himself is a veteran who is plagued by the horrible memories of the conflict. The movie makes the anti-German sentiment that happened during this period a major plot point. The entire reason why little Grace ends up at sea in the first place is because her father (who is German) is killed by an angry mob. However, it is the compassion he showed while alive that drives the film’s redemption story. The lesson here is the true destructive power of bigotry, by which the events of the film would not occur if there weren’t an irrational hatred of Germans that followed the war. This is sadly a lesson that remains relevant to this day and for all generations.
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THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS opens in theaters now