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SYNOPSIS: Lighthouse keeper Tom (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander) living off the coast of Western Australia, raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.

Review by Louise Keller:
I loved everything about this affecting and exquisitely made tearjerker whose themes of love, loss and sacrifice rise and fall like the waves on the ocean. Cinematic, poetic and always accessible, Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance has adapted M.L. Stedman's best selling novel with great sensitivity, concentrating on the emotional journeys of its two central characters as they react to the elements surrounding them. The chemistry between Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander sizzles (their real life relationship began on this production); he plays Tom, the reclusive lighthouse keeper who embraces life after facing death on the Western Front and she is Isabel, whose raison d'etre is tested. Take a tissue: the final reel is overwhelming.

Shot in New Zealand and Tasmania, the film with its remote locations is beautiful to look at, while Alexandre Desplat's expressive score echoes loneliness, joy, reflection and regret with its melodic notes and musical themes. The film's beauty is both tangible and ethereal as it grapples with its themes of isolation, death and morality. The setting is Janus Rock, aptly named after the two-faced Roman God of endings and beginnings. The promise of the future beckons as the difficulties of the past are put aside.

An economical screenplay and fluid storytelling allow us to enter Tom and Isabel's world from the moment they meet, fall in love and establish their lives on the isolated West Australian island, where the lighthouse beacon shines its message of security and hope though the darkness. Their intimacy, like their relationship is gentle, amid the sounds of the crashing of the waves, the wind in the grass, the squawking birds and the beauty of the ever-changing light on the water. Then one day a dinghy is washed ashore bringing with it a beautiful baby.... The moral dilemma and the chance of happiness that follows becomes the emotional heart of the film. Actions have consequences: 'Things catch up with you in the end,' Tom notes.

Rachel Weisz is superb in the pivotal role of Hannah, who understands loss only too well. Her learned philosophy about forgiveness is one that we do not forget. Good to see Garry McDonald as Isabel's father, bearded Jack Thompson plays a salty skipper and Bryan Brown has a cameo as Hannah's wealthy father. Watch out for Florence Clery, the adorable three year old who plays Lucy as a toddler; she is a real scene stealer.

It is easy to get lost in this film - Cianfrance articulates and expresses the emotions and dilemmas of the characters so beautifully. Haunting and unforgettable, this is a special film and highly recommended.

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(US/NZ/UK, 2016)

CAST: Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz, Bryan Brown, Carenm Pistorius, Jack Thompson, Emily Barclay, Anthony Hayes, Leon Ford

PRODUCER: David Heyman

DIRECTOR: Derek Cianfrance

SCRIPT: Derek Cianfrance (novel by M. L. Stedman)


EDITOR: Jim Helton, Ron Patane

MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat


RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 3, 2016

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