Armed with prin­ci­ples

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Stephen Romei’s

lian coast not far from Al­bany, a lonely oc­cu­pa­tion that seems to al­low him the op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on the past and con­sider where his life is tak­ing him.

His ten­ta­tive in­ter­ac­tions with the in­hab­i­tants of the near­est main­land com­mu­nity start to draw him out of his shell. The lo­cals are wel­com­ing, kind, un­der­stand­ing. They in­clude Ralph Ad­di­cott (Jack Thomp­son), cap­tain of the lit­tle ship that shut­tles be­tween Janus and the main­land, school­teacher Bill Graysmark (Garry McDon­ald), whose sons were killed in the war, his wife Vi­o­let (Jane Menelaus) and their daugh­ter Is­abel (Ali­cia Vikan­der).

Tom and Is­abel are at­tracted to one an­other and marry, but their iso­lated ex­is­tence on the tiny is­land presents un­ex­pected chal­lenges. When Tom en­coun­ters Grace (Rachel Weisz), a young widow mourn­ing her hus­band and baby daugh­ter, ev­ery­thing changes.

This ro­man­tic melo­drama was mainly filmed in New Zea­land, near Dunedin, but some scenes were also shot in Tas­ma­nia. The gifted cin­e­matog­ra­pher Adam Arka­paw ( An­i­mal King­dom) Hack­saw Ridge The Light Be­tween Oceans han­dles the vis­ual side of things in clas­si­cal style, while the Amer­i­can di­rec­tor, Derek Cian­france, who made Blue Valen­tine and The Place Be­yond the Pines, con­fi­dently probes ev­ery sub­tle el­e­ment of the beau­ti­fully struc­tured drama. Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a film like this of­fers a pointed re­minder as to just how shal­low and ma­nip­u­la­tive are the av­er­age Hol­ly­wood melo­dra­mas of the 21st cen­tury (think of the dire Nicholas Sparks adap­ta­tions); there may be el­e­ments in this story that might for some view­ers seem im­prob­a­ble, but Cian­france and his ex­cep­tional cast make them be­liev­able.

Fass­ben­der is one of the most charis­matic lead­ing men mak­ing films right now, and he makes Tom Sher­bourne a com­pletely re­alised char­ac­ter, a man at­tempt­ing to over­come one trauma, only to find him­self in the mid­dle of an­other. Swedish ac­tress Vikan­der, who speaks with­out a hint of an ac­cent, is also ex­cel­lent, mak­ing the frag­ile Is­abel some­one with whom we can iden­tify even when she’s ob­vi­ously mak­ing some very bad de­ci­sions. And Weisz, too, has rarely been bet­ter than she is here.

Typecast­ing can be so dis­tract­ing that the first mo­ment I saw McDon­ald on screen I was tempted to smile, but the ac­tor ac­quits him­self very well as an up­right pil­lar of the lo­cal so­ci­ety, while Bryan Brown, who plays Grace’s fa­ther, is also in fine form play­ing a dig­ni­fied man who is de­ter­mined to seek jus­tice for his daugh­ter.

If I seem to have been enig­matic in de­scrib­ing what ac­tu­ally hap­pens dur­ing the film, that’s be­cause, for those who have not read the book, there are some sig­nif­i­cant sur­prises in store — while those who have will, I think, be sat­is­fied with this hand­some adap­ta­tion. re­views will re­turn next week.

Scenes from show An­drew Garfield, top, Teresa Palmer with Garfield, above left, and Rachel Grif­fiths, above; left, Ali­cia Vikan­der and Florence Clery in

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