A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Light Between Oceans is based on M.L. Stedman's best-selling novel by the same name. Like the book, the movie chronicles a heartbreaking set of events, including miscarriages (some blood shown) and a terrible storm that takes a man's life, leaving his baby behind. The mood is pretty gloomy and intense overall as the film explores grief, death, marriage, motherhood, and xenophobia. Expect some sensual sex scenes with brief nudity (bottom, side of breast), as well as a scene in which Australians treat a German harshly and a moment when a child appears to be harmed. There are also heart-rending conversations between a couple caught in a desperate moment. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander co-star.
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What's the story?
In THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, Tom (Michael Fassbender) and Isabelle (Alicia Vikander) fall in love fast. He's a World War I veteran-turned-lighthouse keeper, and she's a young woman living on Point Partageuse, Australia, the island closest to Janus Rock, where the lighthouse is located. Soon after Tom takes the job, they meet, get married, and prepare to raise children in the lighthouse's isolated but idyllic location. But parenthood doesn't seem meant to be; two miscarriages later, they're heartbroken, especially Isabelle. So when Tom spots a boat floating in the middle of the sea, with a man dead and a baby girl very much alive and needing care, Isabelle's insistent plea for them to keep the baby and raise it as their own proves irresistible. For a while, it seems like happily ever after may be in the cards, but on one of their visits to Isabelle's family, Tom encounters a woman (Rachel Weisz) who might be connected to the whole situation. What happens next is a dismantling of Tom and Isabelle's, made even more difficult since they don't agree on what they should do.
Is it any good?
Grief is palpable in this beautiful, heartbreaking drama, intensified by Fassbender, Vikander, and Weisz' excellent performances. The cinematography is exquisite -- the landscape is a match to the epic story of pain and distance that The Light Between Oceans tells. Director Derek Cianfrance, who adapted the movie from the best-selling novel by M.L. Steadman, takes great pains to build the audience's investment in Tom and Isabelle as characters before dismantling the happy life he establishes for them early on right before our very eyes.
But let's be clear here: This movie isn't for the faint of heart. It's brutal in its depiction of intimacy torn apart and a grief that can't subside. It's too bad that the ending feels rushed and Weisz' character is slightly underwritten. Still, this is a powerhouse of a film that deserves to be seen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Tom and Isabelle's central decision in The Light Between Oceans. How is it presented? As an act of love? Taking advantage of a situation? What consequences do they eventually face?
How does the movie answer the question of what makes someone a mother. Is it circumstance or the act of giving birth?
What is the film saying about the hardships of marriage, especially as pertains to parenthood?
If you've read the book, which version did you like better? Why? Why do you think filmmakers choose to change certain things when adapting a book for the movies?
- In theaters: September 2, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2017
- Cast: Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz
- Director: Derek Cianfrance
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material and some sexual content
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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