Director of Newest Disney Movie Feels the Script was ‘Biblical’:
Behind the Scenes of LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
“I grew up Catholic, and I’ve been making movies about families my whole life. I feel like my mission in life is to make portraits of families.”
So says Director Derek Cianfrance while discussing his newest movie, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS, a story about a married couple that faces tough decisions after they make the mistake of raising someone else’s missing baby as their own. In an exclusive interview with Movieguide®, Cianfrance discussed the integral role faith, forgiveness and compassion play in the story.
Set in post World War I Australia on a small coastal town, the movie stars Michael Fassbender as Tom Sherborne, a war veteran manning a lighthouse on a secluded island, who falls in love and marries the lovely young woman Isabel.
“Tom certainly at the beginning of story is not whole; he doesn’t feel much love,” Cianfrance said.
“He feels a lot of survivor’s guilt,” the director adds. “He’s trying to get on with his life, he finds love, and love really brings him back to life.”
The marriage between the two characters faces a challenge when Isabel miscarries two babies, and then all of sudden a rowboat with a baby inside sweeps to shore. Instead of reporting the child as missing, Tom’s love for his wife leads him to hide the evidence, and the two raise the little girl as their own.
For casting Tom, Cianfrance knew he needed an actor who could embody duty, conviction and love equally, saying:
“He has to be someone who’s ruled by his duty, he’s a true man. He knows the difference between right and wrong. What I want to do is find an actor who can be in control, and Fassbender to me is the smartest actor out there. What I was really interested with him was this battle he has with his heart, because it’s love that his mind battles, when he had the choice to keep the baby or report it, he knows what the right thing is. The right thing is to report it, but his heart and love [for his wife] win out.”
However, four years later, when Tom and Isabel meet the real mother of their daughter, Tom, a man of conviction, realizes he can’t stay silent any more, and he risks losing his wife’s love in order to do what’s right before God.
“To me the movie is really a battle in a lot of ways between duty, honor, doing the right thing, faith and love,” Cianfrance said. “This guy Tom, he knows what’s right and wrong, but then he also has a wife that he loves, and he’s trying to protect her, and if they don’t keep the baby, then maybe she doesn’t survive, so he’s trying to keep her alive. It’s complicated. I don’t judge him; I can honestly relate to him. That’s where I’ve always been with family and religion in my own life. That we’re all human, we all fail, and we all make mistakes.”
Ultimately, all the characters, and even all of us have to come to terms with what forgiveness looks like.
Cianfrance spoke to this part of story, explaining that, “Forgiveness isn’t necessarily fashionable right now. Vengeance is fashionable, especially in cinema.”
Discussing his own contribution to the movie’s world, he noted, “I felt like it was a bit of a fable, and I felt like it was biblical when I was reading the story. I tried to keep that as my north star when I was adapting it.”
He continued, “The one thing that kept me going with this film for the three years it took me to make it was, I really thought about what I was going to put out into the world we’re living now, which feels pretty complicated. A simple message of forgiveness, I felt I could stand behind that. It’s something that as a father, as a husband, I feel really good about putting out into the world.”
You can read Movieguide®’s full review for THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS here.