Many moments in The Light Between Oceans (2016, out now for home viewing) accentuate isolated and needy individuals who don’t really want to be alone.

Tom and Isabel

The film begins by lingering on Tom’s isolation on the Australian coast. He is single, alone and surrounded by mountain and land on one side and ocean going forever on the other. He writes in his notebook, but unable to share it with anyone else.

His stoical appearance makes him appear without a need and he seems comfortable in the surrounds of a lighthouse away from everything. But he does need a wife. Even the most confident individuals in isolation still feel the need to connect with another human being. That is quite natural.

Tom, played by Michael Fassbender, is a lighthouse keeper living on the coast of Australia. He replaces the previous keeper who lost his health.

After a meeting, Tom’s taken on for a three year contract, and he happens to meet Isabel (played by Alicia Vikander, Oscar winner for The Danish Girl). They marry.

Tom’s need for a wife is filled. It is not good for man to be alone and something good has come into Tom’s life, filling his need to connect, despite appearing confident being alone.


Tom, played by Michael Fassbender, in The Light Between Oceans.
Tom, played by Michael Fassbender, in The Light Between Oceans.


Isabel envisages having children, but miscarries twice. Then, she “adopts” an infant that washes up on the shore, appearing out of nowhere on a boat, crying and needing help. Her needs are met by keeping and raising the child.

She found the bridge between what she desired—her need for children—and what was not there yet, in the distance.

The child’s birth mother turns up needing her child, who has grown up with Isabel and Tom. The child is attached to her “adopted” parents, but now the child is wanted by her birth mother.

But what is best for the child and her needs?

There are conflicting needs among the individuals involved. Isabel and the birth mother both need the child, but the child has needs for the Mom she was raised by.

The question is how does one find fulfillment, and yet think of others, where there are conflicting needs? What gives way, what gives up, or who makes the difference? This is the light between “oceans” that individuals need.

Though some criticism has been laid at how The Light Between Oceans is contrived, it is actually true to life, as life like this could have unfolded somewhere, especially in relation to the early 20th century, when the film is set. It’s realistic. Sometimes life as stable as it was can get out of hand. There’s a God angle on that, too. Therefore, The Light Between Oceans is underrated.

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