There is no name for a mother who loses her child. Is she still a mother?
After almost four years serving his country in the “Great War”, young Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) returns to Australia seeking a life of quiet and solitude. He receives a contract to work as a lighthouse-keeper in Janus Rock, a remote part of Western Australia, overlooking the Indian Ocean on one side, and the Great Southern Ocean on the other.
When Tom reports for duty at Point Partageuse, he is welcomed by the Graysmarks – Bill (Garry McDonald), Violet (Jane Menelaus) and their daughter Isabel (Alicia Vikander). Young Isabel is as vibrant as Tom is shy. In spite of their differences, the two quickly form a bond. When Tom is eventually offered a permanent contract to work at Janus Rock, the two marry and look forward to starting a family together.
Unfortunately, after several years of trying and two devastating miscarriages later, the young couple starts to lose hope until one day, a dinghy washes up on Janus. Inside, they find an unidentified man – already dead from an unknown cause – and a little baby girl. Tom wants to report this to the authorities, as is his duty. However, Isabel sees this as the answer to her prayers for a child of their own.
Years later, Tom and Isabel meet Hannah Roennfeldt (Rachel Weisz), a widow whose German husband and child perished at sea, or so she thought. It quickly becomes clear to them that Hannah is the biological mother of the little girl they have named Lucy. From this point on, their lives are turned upside down. Can they bear to return the child they have brought up and grown to love as their own to her real mother? How will they explain what happened?
Fassbender and Vikander continue to prove their versatility as performers: they are all-at-once understated and energetic, happy and sad, loving and hateful – tugging at your emotions all the while. Weisz challenges the audience to hate Hannah as she seeks to tear a young family apart while questioning your own emotional response – after all, she is the child’s mother.
The trio is supported by a strong ensemble of Aussie legends: In addition to McDonald, Jack Thompson and Thomas Unger play local ferrymen who make regular deliveries to Janus, and Bryan Brown is Septimus Potts, Hannah’s father and the richest man in town.
Directed by Derek Cianfrane based on his screenplay adapted from M.L. Stedman’s best-selling novel of the same name, The Light Between Oceans is now showing across Australia (opens November 3). Bring some tissues.