THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS — Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned, historical melodrama, this should be your choice. Returning from W.W. I in 1919, embittered Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) takes a job manning a lighthouse on an isolated, windswept island called Janus, off the coast of Western Australia. A taciturn fellow of few words, he wants to escape from the carnage of civilization and be left in solitude. Read on…

En route to assume his post, he meets Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander), who lives in the nearest coastal village. A romance via mail ensues, they get married and Isabel subsequently suffers two devastating miscarriages.

Then a dinghy containing a crying baby girl and the dead body of a man washes up on their beach. Dutiful Tom’s first instinct is to report the incident immediately and hope that he and Isabel can adopt the infant.

But desperate Isabel persuades him to keep his silence, convincing him that no agency would allow them to adopt a child to live on rugged, remote Janus Rock with no school, no medical care and no church. Her plan is raise the child as their own in their seaside cottage.

Complications occur at the child’s christening on the mainland, where stoic Tom spies Hannah (Rachel Weisz), mourning at the grave of her husband and baby who disappeared at sea just when the dinghy washed ashore.

Riddled with guilt, Tom slips an anonymous note to Hannah, assuring her that her daughter is alive and well. That prompts a police investigation and bitter child-custody struggle.

Adapted from M.L. Sherbourne’s 2012 novel, it’s written and directed by Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond the Pines”). Obviously contrived and emotionally manipulative, its inherent ethical dilemma generates real empathy, since all the characters must make incredible sacrifices and, ultimately, learn forgiveness.

Couple that with the unrelenting chemistry between Fassbinder and Vikander, amplified by Alexandre Desplat’s lyrical score and Adam Arkapaw’s evocative cinematography.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Light Between Oceans” shines with a schmaltzy 7, a sorrowful, heart-wrenching “weeper.”

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.