“The Light Between Oceans” Review – A Brilliantly Beautiful Romance With A Twist

By Josiah Wampfler

Blue Valentine. The Place Beyond the Pines. And now The Light Between Oceans. Director Derek Cianfrance has now blown my mind with all of these films and, shockingly, they are his only three feature films of note. From the first frame of Blue Valentine it was apparent that Cianfrace was bound for great things. But with The Light Between Oceans, he makes it abundantly clear that he is a brilliant auteur through and through.

In this twist on an early 20th Century romance, Cianfrance trades in one of my man-crushes (Ryan Gosling) for my other: the endlessly captivating Michael Fassbender. Joining Fassbender is his real-life girlfriend Alicia Vikander and WOW! These two are incredible. Apparently, their real-life relationship blossomed during the making of the film and that is immediately evident on the screen. Fassbender and Vikander make one of the best romantic pairings in years.

Though Vikander is a relative newcomer compared to Fassbender, she is every bit as captivating and convincing. For every brilliantly emotive look Fassbender exhibits, Vikander is there to answer him. Each one feeds off the other’s performance to create the kind of magnetic chemistry that is rarely captured on camera.

The film also features Rachel Weisz, who is every bit as superb as her co-stars, but to even talk about her role is a spoiler in itself unfortunately (If you haven’t read the synopsis/watched the trailer, DON’T). What I will say is that all three of these actors put in phenomenal performances worthy of awards attention, but it is Weisz that surprised me the most. I hadn’t seen her in much before this film and I want to see her in everything now. It is her character that makes The Light Between Oceans so much more than a simple romance and it is her performance that adds heartbreaking complexity to the film, as she pulls at our heartstrings and allegiances throughout.

And holy sunsets! The Light Between Oceans is one of the most magnificently gorgeous films I have ever seen. The scenery, a lone island on which a quaint lighthouse rests amid the treacherous ocean, is the epitome of tranquility. And Cianfrance captures this extraordinarily beautiful place under the light of sunsets and sunrises as often as possible. With his camera he is able to make one place emotionally different in almost every shot, showing how beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Throughout the film we experience beauty in loneliness, love, togetherness, and even tragedy. It is truly a unique visual experience.

The Light Between Oceans is a film first and foremost about love. This is not the simplistic love that is found in most mainstream romances that is all about surface level emotion but a love that explores the deeper complexities of what it takes to make a relationship work. The type of love that Cianfrance shows us involves sacrifice and forgiveness. Life is messy and, like the director’s past work, much of The Light Between Oceans revolves around good people making bad decisions. But we empathize with the characters as they make these decisions, making it all the more heartbreaking. Yet out of the tragedy that is the second half of the film comes a deeper understanding of true love that is willing to sacrifice and willing to forgive. This love is what is able to carry these characters through the tragic events of the film and, in the end, it is this same kind of love in another that ultimately saves them.


CB Podcast Ep. 39 – “Star Trek Beyond” Review

“This week on the podcast, the bros dive into the news and trailers that came out of San Diego Comic-Con over the weekend, plus bring you their review of Justin Lin’s ‘Star Trek Beyond.'”

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Female Directors Spotlight – “Beyond the Lights”

By Josiah Wampfler

Celebrity. Fame. When most of us hear these words we think about lavish houses, expensive cars, adoring fans: the great things about stardom. What we don’t think about is the swarm of paparazzi, the tabloids that spread rumors and lies, and the vicious attacks on social media and in person. And for women, there are even more negative side effects to fame. From the vitriolic sexism on the internet to the more subtle ways the world puts pressure on women to look and act “lady-like,” women in the public eye face a constant minefield.

Fame has its benefits, but it obviously is not all it is cracked up to be. Our society seems to fetishize and fantasize the downfall of our biggest stars. We love to see someone knocked off their pedestal. And like the screaming masses in Caesar’s Colosseum, cheering for the lions to tear the gladiators apart, sometimes we get what we want.

Beyond the Lights is a film about the things celebrities face each and every day. It follows a superstar singer, Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is overwhelmed by her life and attempts suicide one night. As she goes over the edge of the balcony though, Officer Kaz (Nate Parker) is there to save her. A relationship between the two blossoms as Noni starts a journey to find who she really is and what she wants out of life.

Directed and written by Gina Prince-Blythewood, Beyond the Lights is a wonderful film about the importance of staying true to yourself and the dangers of fame. Prince-Blythewood takes a fairly simple story and elevates it beyond just another love story. She manages to infuse the complexity of life into the film with fully fleshed-out characters and well-written dialogue.

And all of this is supported by a wonderful cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a revelation as an actress and singer in the film. She breaths life into the character of Noni and brings a character full of complexity. She can be sexy and strong but also completely vulnerable and there are several emotional scenes that really impressed me. Plus, her chemistry with her co-star, Nate Parker (who is equally as wonderful), is palpable.

Minnie Driver and Danny Glover deliver great performances as well, with Driver playing Noni’s mother and Glover playing Kaz’s father. Driver is especially excellent as the overbearing mother/manager, bringing an extremely intense character to the screen. And there are some great emotional moments between her and Mbatha-Raw that simply wowed me.

Beyond the Lights is not a perfect film and there are moments here and there that feel a bit cheesy, but overall I thought it was an emotionally impacting film. While Noni certainly lives a life most of us will never know, Prince-Blythewood manages to make her completely relatable. Her pain and her struggles feel genuine and through this we start to see how dehumanizing fame can be for a person. But, we also start to see Noni’s true self emerge. Thankfully, unlike so many other celebrities who faced the dehumanizing power of fame, Noni is able to escape the tragic fate the tabloids thirst for and become the artist she always wanted to be.