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‘The Light Between Oceans’ Critical Roundup: Derek Cianfrance’s Melodrama Leaves Reviewers at Sea

The "Blue Valentine" and "Place Beyond the Pines" director's latest is out this week.

“The Light Between Oceans”

The Light Between Oceans” is in theaters this Friday, and Derek Cianfrance’s adaptation of the novel by M.L. Stedman is so far receiving mixed notices. Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich says the director’s follow-up to “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” could have been a “masterpiece” as a Decemberists song. As a “middlebrow period melodrama,” however, it’s “lush and lacking in equal measure.”

READ MORE: ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Review: Alicia Vikander Shines Bright In A Rocky Period Romance

Owen Gleiberman of Variety is similarly lukewarm, writing in his review that the film “winds up taking one too many self-serious twists and turns. The film earns its darkness, but it might have been even more affecting if it didn’t shrink from the light.”

“Poignant and frustrating in equal measure,” writes Screen‘s Tim Grierson in another mixed take, “‘The Light Between Oceans’ aspires to be an elegant melodrama, but the intelligence that director Derek Cianfrance and his capable cast bring to bear eventually becomes overwhelmed by the story’s emotional manipulations.”

LA Weekly‘s April Wolfe is more favorable, especially when it comes to the onscreen trio of Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz: “The sense of authenticity that marks The Light Between Oceans at its best has everything to do with the acting — and if all Cianfrance ever gives us is that, it’s worth the price of his lagging third act.”

READ MORE: Why Derek Cianfrance Sees ‘The Light Between Oceans’ as a Companion Piece to His ‘Blue Valentine’

Even more impressed is Peter Bradshaw, whose Guardian review gives the literary adaptation four starts (out of five) and proclaims that it “isn’t subtle – that swoony title should tip you off – and it’s a fair way from the realist grit of the less obviously commercial pictures Cianfrance has made previously…but he carries it off with forthright defiance and with strong, heartfelt, ingenuous performances from Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender.”

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