World War One has ended and a weary, emotionally damaged soldier Tom (Fassbender) returns to Australia seeking some balance in his tormented world. A job as the lighthouse keeper on the remote (fictional) island of Janus, off the coast of Western Australia seems ideal. The contract is only for 6 months and the solitude and physical work is perfect for him and will allow him to begin to heal.
Just before he leaves, he meets Isabel (Vikander), the daughter of a local businessman. When Tom is offered the chance to extend his contract on Janus to 3 years, he travels back to the mainland to sign and promptly marries Isabel. The two set off for their island but their idyllic, isolated bliss is soon shattered by heartbreak and a harrowing decision.
The couple naturally want to start a family but Isabel suffers a miscarriage. When she falls pregnant again, Tom pleads with his wife to go back to the mainland to give birth but she refuses and miscarries again. The couple each deal with their grief privately until one day, Tom spies a dingy floating just off shore. When they bring it to shore, they discover the body of a dead man and a baby girl.
Isabel pleads, begs and cajoles her husband into keeping the child, who they call Lucy (Clery) and passing her off as their own. This decision will set off a chain of events that will have lifelong and far-reaching consequences for all involved.
Based on M.L. Stedman’s best-selling novel of the same name, this movie is a visually stunning masterpiece. It captures the raw, rugged beauty of an antipodean island, battered mercilessly by the oceans that surround it yet remaining steadfast and true to guide passing ships through dangerous terrain. I will leave it to you to unravel the metaphor within.
Fassbender is an actor of immense talent and captures perfectly the love, grief and anguish that torments Tom from the moment he gives in to Isabel’s wish to keep Lucy. When he discovers Lucy’s real mother Hannah (Weisz) weeping over the grave of deceased husband and daughter, his decision to lead Hannah to her daughter tears his life and his family apart.
Now to Vikander. I was a big fan of Ex Machina (you can read my review here) but the more I see of her, the more I despair that she is simply a one note actress. Given, she does that one note well but if this is all she has to offer, she will indeed suffer from the Supporting Actress Oscar curse (you can Google that one yourself because that whole debacle still pisses me off).
Fassbender and Vikander met and fell in love on the set of this movie. Well, whatever they felt off-screen, sadly they used up off-screen as well because there is no genuine connection between them and the story hinges on the fact that Tom so loved Isabel, that he reset his own moral compass for her.
For all its grand story telling, sweeping vistas and overall gorgeousness, the lack of chemistry between the lead actors bored me. And to think I worried it would be the quasi Aussie accents that would bother me …
I wanted to love this movie, I truly did. It has been torn to shreds on the interwebs and I love nothing better than championing an underdog. Sadly, this time it’s all too true. It’s worth a viewing for the cinematography but that’s about it. So disappointing.
Love Sue-Ellen xx
Director : Derek Cianfrance
Starring : Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Florence Clery, Jack Thompson, Thomas Unger, Garry McDonald, Anthony Hayes, Bryan Brown
Running Time : 133 minutes
Release Date : November 3