The Light Between Oceans – Thoughts

by Laura Findlay

Dear Zoo,

This week a friend and I went to the cinema to see the much-anticipated The Light Between Oceans. Clutching tissues and smuggled-in strawberries we waited to see how the movie would shape up. We had both read and loved the book.

Granted, it was a few years ago that I read the book, distinctively without much hype. But I did enjoy it. I enjoyed the detail, the setting – off the coast of Australia post WW1. I enjoyed the characters. Two things struck me in the book:  the first was that it was a story more so than many books I’d read that year. It was like hearing a yarn as you sat with a close group of friends as dusk set in. It was sombre and full of heart. The second thing was that it completely challenged my moral understanding of the world. In most cases of reading,  I know how I want the book to end, who the winners should be, what would in fact make a happy ending. In the case of The Light, however, I was stumped. (If you’re totally unaware, it’s about a couple that run a lighthouse on a remote island who find a baby in a dingy that they, blinded by grief, decide to raise as their own.)

Now for the movie. The sea was as sweeping and magnificent as I’d hoped. Some of the detail was missing from the island but detail – what books have in spades, movies tend to lack and that’s okay. As far as I can trust my memory, the plot kept fairly closely to the book (again with a lot of the detail parred-back out of necessity). I give the filmmakers kudos for the casting. I think Tom – acted by Michael Fassbender – was the highlight of the movie. He just looked exactly like the book Tom, and he portrayed the broken, guilt-ridden and deeply in love man I came to know in the book. Isabel – Alicia Vikander – was somehow just a bit off, to me. I just didn’t buy that it was the 1920s when she was on the screen, though Isabel’s grief was real enough. I don’t know if the moral conundrum was quite as convincing as in the book but it was certainly a good story. Oh, and as my friends agreed, the tangible details very much unique to the movie format – the clothes, furniture – were delightful. I’d watch it again to see Isabel’s wedding dress and their little house on Janus Island.

Have you seen the movie or read the book? Thoughts?