Derek Cianfrance’s wife, Shannon Plumb, wrote a detailed essay on The Talkhouse about their experience premiering “The Light Between Oceans” at the Venice Film Festival. Excited about finally debuting the film Cianfrance had passionately worked on for years, she was heartbroken when early negative reviews of the drama were posted online.
“No one was supposed to post a review until a few hours before its premiere,” Plumb wrote. “But there were five reviews up, one by Variety, and it was two more days till the premiere. The critics had broken the embargo.”
Detailing that Cianfrance felt like “someone stomped on his brain,” she added, “The critics are not a voice for the people, yet they can affect the reputation and success of the movie. By writing early and with vehemence against ‘The Light Between Oceans,’ it probably lost a couple million dollars in its first weekend. The first weekend is still the most important weekend for the movie. It determines the life a movie will have in theaters.”
“The Light Between Oceans” underperformed in its opening weekend, bringing in around $4.7 million in its first days. The romance film starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz was expected to bring in a moderate sum given its prestige factor. The movie was released on September 2 and to date has brought in around $10.5 million domestically.
“Of the reviews that came out that first weekend, 78 percent were by men. Many of these were giving Derek the slapdown,” she continued. “Women who see the film love it. When they did the weekend Cinemascore survey of the audience, they found that 72 percent of the audience was female – and gave the film an A- score. 28 percent was male and gave it a B+ score.”
Explaining that common words used to describe the film were “chick flick,” “weepie” and “melodrama,” she expressed that the romance genre is in danger of becoming extinct. “If a romance film like this doesn’t do well, the chances of making other films like it will die. The critics are killing off genres like hunters with the dodo bird…People are losing their ability to be romantic.”
Once the premiere came along, she worried that the film wouldn’t be well-received by the audience. Though once the credits rolled, she wept after everyone applauded.
“I think the movie and the moment triggered the memories of the two years just past. I cried remembering all the hard work and sacrifices made by Derek and his comrades,” she remembered. “It didn’t matter what the critics said. This room was moved. The audience openly accepted the movie.”
While the film may have not done as well as it hoped at the U.S. box office, “Oceans” still has a chance to see bigger numbers in its opening weekend when it’s released overseas in the coming months.
Read Plumb’s full essay by clicking here.