Derek Cianfrance’s earlier effort, Blue Valentine, still remains one of the most honest, and heartfelt depictions of a relationship in crisis. His following feature, The Place Beyond the Pines, retained the emotional core that he had demonstrated so skillfully before, but was far more ambitious both in terms of scope and narrative. Certainly The Place Beyond the Pines was a flawed film, predominantly due to its issues with pacing towards the final third of the narrative, but for me, it firmly cemented Cianfrance’s reputation as an auteur.
His latest effort once again focuses on familial relationships suffering through crisis, but appears to be a return to Blue Valentine in terms of breadth featuring a smaller cast and a simple central concept.
Based on M.L. Steadman’s novel of the same name, the film features Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper living off the coast in post World War I Western Australia. Together with his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander), the pair live a relatively isolated existence, an existence which seemingly suits them. This isolation is broken when a baby girl is washed ashore, alone in an rowboat. The couple adopt the girl as their own, raising her as their daughter. This apparently idyllic life is broken when on a trip to the mainland, it becomes apparent that the mother of their ‘daughter’ is still mourning the loss of her girl.
The film, if the trailer is anything to go by, looks beautifully shot and utterly devastating. Reviews of the book cited Thomas Hardy as a reference point, a comparison that, for me, is always encouraging. I really hope The Light Between the Ocean delivers.