WARNING: If you haven’t read the book or seen the film, perhaps you should opt out of reading this blog posting to prevent me from spoiling the story for you.
My book club ladies decided to read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman this month and paired it with an outing to go watch the film, which also just came out. So I did follow the pattern of reading the book before I watched the movie.
The book I read already advertised the film release (as you can see on the cover), giving away the names of the actors who are in the film. So it actually did make me a bit biased on imagining what the characters would look like as I was reading it.
The book starts off with a map to show where the island of Janus and the other locations on Australia made reference to in the book were, which was helpful. The author grew up in Western Australia too, so I do like that she draws inspiration from her home country.
The film did do justice in telling the overall story told by the book, but naturally cut out a lot of the other scenes described in the book. It didn’t affect the storyline too much, but I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have that first encounter between Tom Sherbourne and Hannah Roennfeldt on the boat before arriving in Partageuse for the first time when he rescued her from another man. The first time Tom and Isabel meet was also very much downplayed in the film and was limited to him seeing her feeding the birds from a distance as he keeps walking by without speaking to her or feeding the birds with her like he did in the book.
I also found that I really did not like Isabel’s character when I was reading the novel but didn’t find that to be the case as much when I watched the film. It might be because in the movie she doesn’t find out about the baby’s real identity until much later compared to the book. It made her seem more innocent in the crime she committed.
Gwen’s role in the film was also much less significant compared to the book since the scene of her having Lucy reunite with Isabel at the bench weren’t there. And there was also a wedding scene for Isabel and Tom in the film, which was not mentioned in the book. The book mentions a honeymoon which would have been where the marriage was consummated for the first time but the movie implied that the deed was done in their bedroom at their home in Janus. I think this was more all for cinematic visual effects.
The scenes that I felt the film did get right was when the piano tuner/repair person came to Janus, when Lucy and Isabel were forced to be separated at the police station, and the interaction between Septimus Potts and Lucy-Grace. And with the film, the frustration you feel from the impending story unraveling towards the inevitable destiny the characters are bound for isn’t there compared to the book. Reading the book, I found myself impatiently thinking “When is Hannah going to find out about Lucy already?”
So overall, I would give the film a letter grade of a B+ or an A-. Both the book and the movie tells a story where you do want to know what happens next. And the ending makes you appreciate people doing the right thing even if it’s a difficult choice to make.