BY RYAN MACKETT
IF YOU go to the movies often enough, you'll undoubtedly notice that formulas play a big part in contemporary filmmaking, especially in regard to action movies and comic book movies, as well as romantic comedies. More often than not, when a movie is described as being formulaic, it is usually being said with negative connotations. However, in order for a movie to work, there does need to be a framework, or formula, that must be followed for it to be coherent and followable. What separates truly great films from the rest of the formula films are when the filmmakers have the courage to tweak, disregard or modify the formulas in a way that enhances the storytelling.
One type of formula that isn't typically discussed (or derided) in quite the same way as the action formula is that of the Oscar-Bait Film. Oscar-Baits are those films that are typically period pieces, dramatic in nature, feature astounding casts and are usually based off of a novel and tell an emotional story. They usually look incredible as well.
With The Light Between Oceans, one can clearly see that it is an Oscar-Bait Film, as it fits the formula perfectly. It features an astounding cast (Oscar-winners Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz and Oscar-nominee Michael Fassbender); it utilizes glorious cinematography to showcase the painterly landscapes; its perfectly fitting musical score is from an Oscar-winning composer (Alexandre Desplat); the emotional, heart-wrenching story comes from the novel of the same name by author M.L. Stedman, and; the film is set primarily in the years following The Great War. A caveat, however: when a movie is described as Oscar-bait, chances are it has utilized its formula quite well, as most Oscar-bait films are so-named because they garner Oscar nominations and usually at least a few wins.
The Light Between Oceans tells the story of a lighthouse keeper (Fassbender) and his wife (Vikander) as they raise a baby they find adrift in a lifeboat. When the child’s real mother (Weisz) begins to piece together the truth, questions of morality and living with the guilt of immoral actions begin to trouble the seemingly happy family.
Overall I thought the film was decent enough. The performances (especially Fassbender and Vikander) were truly Oscar-worthy, and as I mentioned the cinematography added so much beauty to the story. The film was directed by Derek Cianfrance; this film, along with his other critically acclaimed films Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines, are definitely putting him on the map as a capable, talented filmmaker.
Unfortunately, the film doesn't break any new ground, and as formulaic Oscar-Bait Films go, this one is run-of-the-mill. It’s still worthy of a viewing, though, and I think it will definitely be mentioned come awards season.