‘The Light Between Oceans’ reviews: ‘Heartfelt’ performances are highlight of literary drama

The Light Between Oceans” opened September 2, launching a fall season of grown-up dramas jockeying for position at the next Oscars. It’s based on the highly regarded 2012 novel by M.L. Stedman, and academy voters love literary adaptations — just last year “Brooklyn,” “The Martian” and “Room” went from acclaimed novels to Best Picture nominees. Does this film look like another awards contender?

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“Light” is helmed by Derek Cianfrance, who previously directed Michelle Williams to a Best Actress Oscar nomination in “Blue Valentine.” In this film he works with more Oscar favorites: two-time nominee Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave” and “Steve Jobs”) and recent winner Alicia Vikander (“The Danish Girl”) star as a World War I veteran and his wife, who find a baby girl washed ashore and raise her as their own. Another Oscar-winner, Rachel Weisz (“The Constant Gardener”), co-stars as the baby’s birth mother.

There is more awards-pedigreed talent behind the camera as well, including prolific Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Emmy-winning cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (“Top of the Lake” and “True Detective”). But based on the reviews so far, it looks like the film’s strongest awards hopes rest with its stellar cast. Read some of the reviews below, and click here to discuss this film and more in our forums.

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Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “The movie’s lushly shot melodrama so vividly recalls the wide-lens story­telling of [the 1990s Miramax] era that it’s not hard to picture Anthony Minghella pivoting straight from The English Patient or The Talented Mr. Ripley to make it. (Minghella died in 2008, but Derek Cianfrance, known for The Place Beyond the Pines and Blue Valentine, is a surprisingly good proxy.)”

Stephen Holden (New York Times): “Mr. Fassbender and Ms. Vikander make one of the most compelling pairs of screen lovers in the grand David O. Selznick tradition that I’ve come across in many years. Unlike so many contemporary movie stars, both actors convey a remarkable depth and range of feeling. With that goes an awareness of the essential unknowability of a partner in a relationship, even one as passionate as theirs.”

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Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian): “The Light Between Oceans isn’t subtle – that swoony title should tip you off – and it’s a fair way from the realist grit of the less obviously commercial pictures Cianfrance has made previously. There’s more corn in the recipe here, a bit more ham and cheese. But he carries it off with forthright defiance and with strong, heartfelt, ingenuous performances from Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender.”

April Wolfe (Village Voice): “In this film, the trifecta of Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, and Rachel Weisz could themselves sweep the acting categories at the Oscars … the sense of authenticity that marks ‘The Light Between Oceans’ at its best has everything to do with the acting.”

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