Derek Cianfrance's "The Light Between the Oceans" disappoints, but why?


"A lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat." That is how IMDB describes Derek Cianfrance's "The Light Between the Oceans," an adaptation of M.L. Stedman's best selling novel. A soapy, dragging and -ultimately- messy film that doesn't do justce to the talent involved. The above IMDB description also does not reveal a crucial twist that happens around the one hour mark.
I can't say I have been the biggest fan of Cianfrance's past work. "Blue Valentine" had some real strong moments, but I found it too facile and predictable in its take on relationships. "The Place Beyond the Pines" had an exceptional start with the Ryan Gosling story, but failed to match the quality in its ensuing back two stories.

This latest Cianfrance doesn't really have the redeeming qualities of his previous efforts. I do remember a time when there were high expectations for this film, but it all evaporated in the last few months probably from toxic word of mouth among the execs and also the fact that they decided to release the damn thing a week before TIFF or Telluride even started. The problem with Cianfrance's film, I believe, is that they had a best-selling book that lent itself well to some tremendous cinematic imagery, but once shooting of the film began Cianfrance and company must have been wondering "what the hell did we get ourselves into?" I mean the film does have Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, two movie stars that soothe intimacy and restraint in their performances. Hell, add Rachel Weisz and you could have a recipe for movie magic.

"The Light Between the Oceans" is too passable. It is being distributed by Disney with a very safe PG-13 rating and is dragged out by its 132 minute running time to bring out scope and ambition. But instead we are treated to half-baked PG-13 Oscar bait product that won't have the Academy buying its well-intended saccharine. This is the kind of melodrama I thought Hollywood was done producing. I guess I was wrong. C-
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