First Hit: Strong acting by Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender had me feeling the intended pain and joy of their characters.
Doing the right thing to find inner peace in his life, Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) has come to this small Australian town to serve as a solitary lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse is on Janus Rock, a remote island several miles from shore. He’s traumatized from his experience in WWI having seen and caused many deaths. He’s looking to repair his soul.
One of the men who helps to hire the lighthouse keeper has a daughter named Isabel Graysmark (Vikander). She is full of energy, life and is intrigued by the quiet somewhat brooding polite Sherbourne. On one of his trips onto shore, he has a picnic with her and their connection is sealed.
The chemistry on the screen is palpable and watching them together is curiously engaging. They marry and live in solitude on the island. They attempt to have children but Isabel miscarries and the pain of these scenes are a strong set up to what happens when they find a dingy washing up on the island with a small baby girl and a dead man inside. Tom wants to find the mother, but Isabel wants to keep the baby and bonds with it immediately.
Filling the hole inside her from her miscarriages drives her to convince Sherbourne to not take steps to find the birth mother. Some years later the birth mother is discovered and she lives in the same town.
Hannah Roenfeldt (Rachel Weisz) is mourning the loss of her husband and baby and Tom fights himself and Isabel to set the record straight.
There are some wonderfully staged scenes in this film including; when Isabel shaves off Tom’s moustache. The happiness of their first dance after the wedding. Tom’s speech about the Lighthouse where Hannah is present and he is lost at what to say and how to say it. The scene when Hannah and Isabel meet up in the fabric store and Lucy-Grace (Florence Clery) runs to Isabel’s arms. And finally when the adult Lucy-Grace (Caren Pistorius) visits Tom. This film was meant to pull on the audience’s heart strings and it does this really well.
Fassbender was amazing as the restrained and constrained man filled with a tough emotional past and learning how love could release him. His controlled words and actions, as provided for in the script, were powerfully shown and shared with the audience. Vikander shows why she won an Academy Award last year. She made Isabel frightfully real in so many ways, displaying the ability to move from one emotion to another in a way that was integrated. She was outstanding. Weisz was powerfully controlled in her role as the mother who lost her child, found her child and having to re-establish her role as mother when the child, rightfully, believed someone else was her mother. Wonderful performance. Derek Cianfrance wrote and directed this film. His ability to create the agonizingly beautiful and powerful scenes in this film, show his ability to get what he wanted.
Overall: This film is heart touchingly aimed to bring a tear or two, and it does.