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THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS: 2 STARS. “like a highbrow Nicolas Sparks story.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 7.38.59 AM“The Light Between Oceans” is a deeply romantic film about choosing between love and doing the right thing. Based on an acclaimed and bestselling book by M. L. Stedman, the film plays like a highbrow Nicolas Sparks story in period clothes.

Michael Fassbender is Tom Sherbourne, a stoic World War I veteran numbed by the horrors of the Western Front. To find peace he takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, a remote and windswept island off the coast of Western Australia. He isn’t alone for long. Before his first stint on the lonely island he meets Isabel (Alicia Vikander), a precocious woman who asks him to marry her just hours after they first meet. A courtship by mail results in marriage. The loving couple’s plans to start a family are thwarted by two miscarriages and just when it looks like they may never have children, a boat washes up on their shore containing a dead man and a live baby.

Tom insists on reporting the wrecked boat, but Isabel wants to keep the baby as her own. Against his better judgement they quietly bury the body and raise the child as their own. The happiness they feel as parents is disturbed when they return to the mainland to discover a local woman (Rachel Weisz) devastated by the loss of a husband and child.

Cue the conundrum.

“The Light Between Oceans” is a Scenery Film. Filled with lovely locations and good looking actors, it’s a beautiful looking movie. It’s also kind of dull. The gorgeous sunsets, rough hewn landscape and Fassbender’s square jaw distract the eye, but the story is so stretched it feels too thin to maintain interest for the movie’s two-hour plus running time. Director Derek Cianfrance luxuriates in the visuals, filling each frame with beauty at the expense of hooking the viewer’s heart. Emotional investment is crucial in a story like this but directorial choices keep us at arm’s length despite the best efforts of the appealing cast.

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