A war weary man takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on an island for the solitude. He meets a beautiful young woman and they eventually marry. One day they see a small dingy with an infant and man inside floating in the ocean. They rush to rescue them only to find the man is dead. They struggle over the decision to report it and whether to keep the baby. It's only years later that they discover that the child still has a mother looking for her. Written by
At the start of the novel (in which the main events are spread out over more years than the film), Tom is 28 years old and Isabel is 19 years old. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander were 37 and 25 years old respectively when the film was shot. See more »
Multiple date discrepancies: (1) the calendar in the kitchen in May 1921 showed May 1st as a Monday, but 5/1/21 was a Sunday; (2) the calendar in the kitchen in April 1923 showed April 1st as a Thursday, but 4/1/23 was a Sunday; (3) the calendar in lighthouse in 1923 says Monday, April 27, but 4/27/23 was a Friday; and (4) a notice on a bulletin board in 1927 says a Nativity play will be performed on Saturday, December 14th, but 12/14/27 was a Wednesday. See more »
I'm just looking to get away from things for a little while.
[sitting behind his desk]
Well, it's no paradise out on that island. Just want to make sure you know what you're in for.
All due respect, Mr. Coughlan, it's not likely to be tougher than the Western Front.
Oh, you're probably right about that. You pay your own passage to every posting. You're a relief worker so you don't get holidays. I understand you're a single man. No family. So, that's a slight concern. Wouldn't ...
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"You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day"
In my review of "The Two Faces of January" I described it as a film that "will be particularly enjoyed by older viewers who remember when story and location were put far ahead of CGI-based special effects". In watching this film I was again linking in my mind to that earlier film... and that was before the lead character suddenly brought up the two faces of Janus! For this is a good old-fashioned weepy melodrama: leisurely, character based and guaranteed to give the tear ducts a good old cleaning out.
It's 1918 and Michael Fassbender plays Tom Sherbourne, a damaged man seeking solitude and reflection after four years of hell in the trenches. As a short-term job he takes the post of lighthouse keeper on the isolated slab of rock called Janus - sat between two oceans (presumably as this is Western Australia, the Indian and the Southern Oceans). The isolation of the job previously sent his predecessor off his trolley.
En route to his workplace he is immediately attracted to headmaster's daughter Isabel (Alicia Vikander) who practically THROWS herself at Tom (the hussy), given that they only have snatches of a day at a time to be together during shore leave. Tom falls for her (as a hot blooded man, and with Vikander's performance, this is entirely believable!) and the two marry to retire to their 'fortress of solitude' together to raise a family and live happily ever after.... or not... For the path of true motherhood runs not smoothly for poor Isabel, and a baby in a drifting boat spells both joy and despair for the couple as the story unwinds.
(I'll stop my synopsis there, since I think the trailer - and other reviews I've read - give too much away).
While Fassbender again demonstrates what a mesmerising actor he is, the acting kudos in this one really goes again to Vikander, who pulls out all the stops in a role that demands fragility, naivety, resentment, anger and despair across its course. While I don't think the film in general will trouble the Oscars, this is a leading actress performance that I could well see nominated. In a supporting role, with less screen-time, is Rachel Weisz who again needs to demonstrate her acting stripes in a demanding role. (Also a shout-out to young Florence Clery who is wonderfully naturalistic as the 4 year old Lucy-Grace.) So this is a film with a stellar class, but it doesn't really all gel together satisfyingly into a stellar - or at least particularly memorable - movie. After a slow start, director Derek Cianfrance ("The Place Beyond the Pines") ladles on the melodrama interminably, and over a two hour running time the word overwrought comes to mind.
The script (also by Cianfrance, from the novel by M.L.Stedman) could have been tightened up, particularly in the first reel, and the audience given a bit more time to reflect and absorb in the second half.
The film is also curiously 'place-less'. I assumed this was somewhere off Ireland until someone suddenly starting singing "Waltzing Matilda" (badly) and random people started talking in Aussie accents: most strange.
Cinematography by Adam Arkapaw ("Macbeth") is also frustratingly inconsistent. The landscapes of the island, steam trains, sunsets and the multiple boatings in between is just beautiful (assisted by a delicate score by the great Alexandre Desplat which is well used) but get close up (and the camera does often get VERY close up) and a lack of 'steadicam' becomes infuriating, with faces dancing about the screen and - in one particular scene early on - wandering off on either side with the camera apparently unsure which one to follow! A memorable cinema experience only for Vikander's outstanding performance. Now where are those tissues...
(Agree? Disagree? Please visit bob-the-movie-man.com for the graphical version of the review and to comment. Thanks!)
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