Another period drama which will test your attention span with its melodrama.
Review (with Spoilers)
Tom (Michael Fassbender) | Isabel (Alicia Vikander) | Hannah (Rachel Weisz) | Lucy-Grace (Florence Clery)
A World War I veteran Tom travels to the other end of the world to recover from all he has seen and done. There he meets Isabel who is extroverted, kind and has an irresistible charm. They quickly marry but she seemingly can’t have kids. So when one washes up on the secluded island, with dead father in tow, there is a fight of what to do. Especially once the existence of the mother Hannah is learned.
Things To Note
I can imagine an Honest Trailers joke being about how this is Ex-Machina 2.
It is hard to deny that Alicia Vikander is certainly one of the top up and coming actresses. For, as noted in the on the fence portion, she is the type of actress who can be considered visually appealing, charming, but also can pull you into her performance. In fact, she, alongside Weisz, are what saved the movie. But while Weisz’s character, and her own performance, is what made her a highlight, honestly it was Vikander’s first scene which did it.
From then on, be it because she was the one with personality or because her attractiveness was the hook and her being personable was you getting pulled out the water, you are emotionally connected. Making her plight, which admittedly is complicated, leaving you torn. No matter how right or wrong the situation was.
The Story of the Women
While Fassbender’s name maybe on the poster, honestly this is about two mothers. One a mother through unofficial adoption and that of a biological mom. In the middle is their daughter Grace, or Lucy, and even the child brings something to this film which really makes you torn between these two women. On one hand, with Isabel unable to have children and having an almost Moses-like moment, with complications, of a child washing up on shore, it seems like a gift from a higher power. One which you are happy for since you have fallen for Isabel and want to see her get what seemingly life has stolen her ability to have. Yet, then there is Hannah. She lost her husband, who she had a complicated romantic background with, since he was German, and the remaining thing of him is Lucy-Grace. This child who we watch go from baby to toddler, talks, and is the cutest thing.
Making it where when you learn of Hannah and her existence, especially her story, complicated feelings arise. The kind which, for lesser productions, would create #Team hashtags.
On The Fence
The Difficulty of Having Physical Appeal, Charm, and Talent (Especially For Male Actors)
Fully recognizing how shallow this argument maybe, I’ll step lightly. To me, there is an uphill battle for male actors, no matter the role. Though their careers are not as difficult as women, they share the same issues. They need to be generally physical appealing, have charm, and hopefully have talent. Unfortunately, though, even if they have all three, as some may argue Fassbender has (I’d argue his charm may get hetero women and gay men, but doesn’t crossover), there comes the problem of the role men play in period dramas. More often than not, they are dull figures or else off the chart eccentrics. In this case, Fassbender as Tom is dull, likely due to the PTSD he is experiencing after WWI. Leading you to recognize Fassbender’s talents as he represents Tom’s internal suffering well, even as Isabel tries to relieve it but, at the same time, the characters depletes any charm Fassbender has. Leading to the question: What is the point of talent without charm?
Mind you, I’m defining charm as the ability to, as noted with the praise for Vikander, not just hook you because of name recognition or being physically appealing, but pull you out the water because you feel the need to get a closer look at this person. Think, in a way, Ariel in the little mermaid needing to see the prince closer. Not just to observe him out of boredom or entertainment, but to really get to know this being and their life.
Fassbender, unfortunately, doesn’t give you a reason for that amount of interest or loyalty. He is basically an accessory, as we often see women in films like this, and his sole purpose is to introduce the issue of Isabel not being able to carry a child to term. Outside of that, he is just there and is largely forgettable.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
While Weisz and Vikander are a highlight of the film, I do feel they are given the benefit of women often playing vulnerable characters who you either empathize with or take pity on. Making it so they can rely on social cues, their charm, and recognition vs. their talent. Then with Fassbender, with his character almost callous, and having little personality, it makes it so unless you have a keen interest in his career that it is hard to appreciate his part in this film. Though what really does this film in is that, like all period drama, it is too long and the melodrama is unyielding. Add on there is little in the way of relief, be it comedic or romantic moments, with perhaps the exception of Lucy-Grace, and that is why the film is being labeled as Mixed.