The Light Between Oceans Parent Review

Although a little slow and ponderous, this movie is sure to spark some deep ethical discussions about the complex dilemma it depicts.

Overall B

When a lighthouse keeper and his wife (Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander) find a baby adrift in a rowboat, the couple decides to raise the child as their own. Several years later they discover their little girl's real mother (Rachel Weisz) may yet be alive.

Violence B
Sexual Content C
Profanity A-
Substance Use B

The Light Between Oceans is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content.

Movie Review

Would a honeymoon on a secluded island sound like the perfect getaway? That’s the exact scenario Isabel (Alicia Vikander) finds herself in after she marries Tom (Michael Fassbender) who is a lighthouse keeper on a small island 100 miles off the coast of Australia. World War I has just ended and the newlyweds begin what seems like an idyllic marriage. Tom maintains the light while Isabel preens a garden and cares for a handful of chickens—both are essential in providing food in their isolated location. And when the light is safely burning and the chickens are fed the couple finds frequent occasions to work on bringing a baby into their home—an activity we are privy to.

Sadly, the joy of creating life is diminished by a pair of miscarriages. The tragedy leaves both of them discouraged. Isabel is especially disheartened and begins to fall into a depression that is aggravated by the non-stop howling wind, bashing waves and separation from civilization. While she prays for a miracle, Tom spots a rowboat just off shore. Dragging it to the beach they discover inside a live female infant accompanied by a dead man. Certain this is her baby sent from God, Isabel begs Tom not to report the incident—a decision that goes against the former soldier’s spotless conduct of loyalty and obedience.

The consequences that follow this emotional moment create the plot’s complex ethical dilemma. The young couple’s desire to love and raise the orphan is understandable. Ignoring proper procedures makes sense too, when Isabel reasons no one would let them adopt the child because they are without access to schools and medical facilities. Their secret seems harmless until a strange twist of fate reveals the child’s real mother (Rachel Weisz) is still alive and racked with sorrow over the loss of her daughter and husband. Tom is now torn between providing the grieving widow with closure (which would also require returning the baby) or continuing to satisfy Isabel’s parental longings and happiness (that means living a lie).

Families with romantically inclined teens should be aware that this film portrays the passionate pleasures of beginning a new marriage. The husband and wife are shown in bed together, with some activity and heavy breathing included—but discreet shadows obscure any explicit details. (The chemistry between the two appears to have been more than acting as this movie sparked a real life relationship between Fassbender and Vikander.) Otherwise, discussions of miscarriages, verbal conflicts and some cigarette smoking in this period film are the only other content concerns.

Although a little slow and ponderous, The Light Between Oceans is sure to spark some deep discussions about truthfulness and dishonesty, motivations and rationalizations, justice and mercy, as well as taking offence and offering forgiveness. As each of the characters grapple with these conflicting shades of right and wrong, the script (based on a novel by M.L. Stedman) demonstrates why guiding lights at pivotal decision points are just as important for choosing one’s course in life as they are for navigating oceans.

Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Starring Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz. Running time: 132 minutes. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in The Light Between Oceans here.

The Light Between Oceans Parents Guide

When Isabel tells Tom that both of her brothers were killed in the war, she muses over whether or not a person is still a mother or a father if they have lost a child. Later, at thier wedding, her father tells Tom to take care of Isabel because she is precious to them – and all they have left. How do these statements help us to understand how much these characters value their children? How do these ideals shape the decisions Tom and Isabel make about the baby in the boat?

One of the characters in this movie, who faces racial prejudice, choose to forgive rather than hate in return. What reason does he give for this response? Do you agree that it takes more effort to hold a grudge than to let go of feelings of anger and hurt? How does his example influence others?

Most of the characters in this film are motivated by love - a mother’s love for her child, a man’s love for his wife, a woman’s love for a lost child. Despite this commonality, each of them choses very different ways to express this emotion. Why do their methods collide? Is there any way they could have worked together? How does this overwhelming desire cause them to make both good and bad decisions?