Friday, 4 November 2016

REVIEW - THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS (DEREK CIANFRANCE)


Derek Cianfrance blunders through the big emotions in The Light Between Oceans, a thick and syrupy novel adaptation that's at much too great a pain to proclaim itself as such, perhaps as a self-conscious exercise in contrast to the writer-director's two previous, more urban, contemporary pieces. And yet this film bears much in common with them, confirming Cianfrance as a filmmaker with very definite interests and concerns, but as yet lacking in the skills to explore them with the requisite depth and care. The grand emotional drive of Blue Valentine meets the sticky structural irregularity of The Place Beyond the Pines, regrettably lacking in the immediacy of the former, and boasting all of the stodginess of the latter, and then some. Cianfrance's determination to barge boldly through the vivid, raw sentimental content of M. L. Stedman's novel, flinging it on screen with little formal appreciation of how to situate it save doffing his cap to the cinematic melodramas of old throughout, is a fair attribute in a young director, if only in concept. And that's all to which The Light Between Oceans largely amounts - blunt ideas, entirely laudable in principle, but disappointingly shallow and ill-fitting in practice. To be sure, it's a visually beautiful film, and there are some terrific performances, even if the local Aussie accents are dragged through the bush and over several raging oceans before landing somewhere in Central Europe. But these are surface pleasures in a skin-deep soap opera, one that cries out for a more rigorous probing, thus to justify a runtime that incessantly drags out an already-dragging film. There's much to admire in The Light Between Oceans, but whether or not it's worth sitting through it merely to experience it is a question whose answer I must leave up to each of you to decide.