The Light Between Oceans

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Light Between Oceans Movie Poster Image
Deeply emotional, distressing drama not for faint of heart.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It might seem like a relationship is irrevocably broken, but that doesn't have to be the case. Forgiveness can be one of the biggest acts of grace. Heavy themes include grief, death, marriage, motherhood, and xenophobia.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tom is so devoted to Isabelle that he would do anything to keep her happy and protect her from pain. Isabelle is a loving mother, despite sometimes losing perspective. Their choices aren't always perfect, but they don't mean harm.


A corpse is briefly shown and then buried. A scene in which Australians treat a German harshly (due to bitter memories of World War I) is fairly intense, as is another moment when a child appears to be harmed. A woman's two miscarriages are depicted; there's some blood, plus heartache and physical pain, making them upsetting/hard to watch.


A married couple is shown in bed; in the main love scene, it's clear that the woman is having sex for the first time. Brief nudity includes a woman's backside and the side of her breast.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking by adults.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTornadosplash44 December 19, 2017

Amazing, yet emotional film of raising an orphaned child.

This was an amazing film! I loved the plot, and the acting was on point! This film isn't for the faint of heart, and it's VERY emotional. The film dea... Continue reading
Adult Written bynancy h. September 11, 2016

Amazingly Creative....Morally Riveting

M. L. stedman is extremely gifted in creative writing!!! I am 62 years old and must say, "The Light Between Oceans" is one of the best movies I have... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byellibelli February 2, 2021

A bit inappropriate, very touchy

This is an amazing movie! I watched it as a family, some of us were in tears! It's quite a distressing movie, so be prepared to cry.
There were a few sex... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bykaliweb January 6, 2019

Heartwrenching and Thoughtful

Be warned, you will cry. The cast provides such a moving performance, and the plot is perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely recommend watching. There... Continue reading

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama and romance

Themes & Topics

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