DreamWorks’ adaptation of M.L. Stedman’s acclaimed historical drama The Light Between Oceans caught our eye way back in September of last year, when Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines helmer Derek Cianfrance became attached. Now, we’ve learned that, after Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, the film will find Cianfrance once again teaming with one of the finest young actors working today, seeing as Shame star Michael Fassbender just signed on for the lead role.
The actor’s last three projects – this summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, a Macbeth adaptation and Assassin’s Creed – all found him stepping away from the quietly devastating dramas on which he built his career, so it looks like The Light Between Oceans will mark a return to form for Fassbender.
The film centers on a lighthouse keeper and his wife on a remote island off the coast of Australia during WWII. The pair are faced with an unexpected moral conundrum when a boat containing a dead man and an infant washes ashore. Cianfrance’s past films have soared in depicting the complexities of human relationships and how people react to morally tumultuous situations, so The Light Between Oceans seems like an ideal fit for the director.
The full synopsis for Stedman’s book provides some additional detail on what to expect:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.
The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.
David Heyman (Gravity) will be handling producing duties for the film, which is gearing up to shoot in Australia later this year. No other cast members have yet become attached, though expect at least the wife to be cast within the next few weeks.
Given both of Fassbender and Cianfrance’s resumes, their team-up has all the markings of one of those great director-actor pairs, so highly coveted but rarely seen. I don’t know about you, but already I’m expecting great things from The Light Between Oceans.