I have to admit, when I heard that Robert Pattinson had a new film out, I wasn’t exactly stoked. Sure, I liked him as Edward in the Twilight series, but that was a long time ago. Now, the Australian actor is best known for his portrayal of the vampire Christian in the 2015 film, “The Dark Shadows.” And while I certainly appreciate his dramatic work, it’s not the kind of acting I expect to see from him. So when his latest film, “The Lighthouse,” arrived in theaters, I had low expectations. And you know what? He didn’t disappoint. Not at all.
The film is an intriguing look into the life of an older brother (Pattinson) who feels responsible for the death of their mother. Convinced that she is burning in hell, he journeys to Newfoundland to search for her there, but stumbles upon a 19th century shipwreck instead.
It’s a somber story that will undoubtedly wrench your heart, but it’s also one that grips you from the very beginning. Weaving through desolate landscapes and barren beaches, the camera focuses on the faces of the young men who survive the tumultuous sea journey. These are the children of Christian, and their faces are a haunting reminder of what he’s gone through. As he searches for redemption, we follow along, riveted by the desperation in his eyes.
While some have criticized the film for having a somewhat unrealistic tone, I found it to be quite striking. The story line is far-fetched, but the way it’s presented is anything but. Director Marc Forster intercuts reality and dream-like sequences with ease, illustrating the character’s disorientation as he adjusts to the strange new world around him.
The young men of a fishing village see Christian as a hero because they believe that he sacrificed his life for them, which as we know, is far from true. But even more incredible, is the fact that they also see his quest for their mother as something good, despite the fact that she is a hateful woman who abandoned them. If that’s not a testament to Christian’s character and inherent nobility, I don’t know what is. Even after all this time, he still loves and protects his children. This was an important point for me, especially since the film is partially inspired by true events. I wondered how the men of the village would react when they discover that Christian’s mother is still alive; their perception of her depends so much on his sacrifice.
And you know what? They still see her in a mostly positive light. It’s a really beautiful moment when they finally discover that she’s alive and that Christian was not the monster they thought he was. Seeing their mother alive is more important to them than anything else, even more than their own lives. If she were less than generous with her feelings, they would be crushed.
Christian is played with a convincing intensity by Pattinson, and he brings an authenticity to the role that I can only describe as haunting. This is a man tormented by his past actions, but also possessed of a burning desire for redemption. The actor conveys the profound impact that trauma has had on Christian’s life with an admirable degree of sensitivity. You genuinely feel for him, and you want to believe that there is still some good inside Christian. The way that he carries himself and the utter despair that he feels are truly remarkable, and it’s a great performance from start to finish. I particularly liked how Forster highlighted Christian’s isolation through the use of long tracking shots and extreme close-ups. There is no dialogue in the film, but instead we are bombarded with a series of stunning visuals and an incredible soundtrack. The result is nothing short of spectacular. Truly great actors like Robert Pattinson elevate simple stories into something greater, making even a dull narrative interesting and sometimes even moving. Christian’s story is one that is not often told, but it’s an important one, and he deserves to be honored for bringing it to life on the big screen.
The Cast Of Characters
It’s always interesting to see which characters stand out when watching a film, and I found that the same was true here. While Christian is the focus of the story, the other characters add an extra layer of depth and dimension to the proceedings. Take Zephyr (Mad Max: Fury Road’s Rosie Hardy), for example. As Christian’s devoted friend and confidante, she sees him through what seems like the worst depression ever. Unable to understand what is going on, she tries her best to support him and bring him comfort. But even she has her limits, and when he finally decides to turn his back on his past, she feels hurt and betrayed.
Then there is Arisapeste (The Favourite’s Michael Statham), the captain of the ship that will eventually become Christian’s albatross. Arisapeste is a complicated character, a cultured and intelligent man who finds himself marooned with a group of illiterate and superstitious men on an island. He does his best to lead the expedition in a civilized manner, attempting to instill some good old-fashioned science into their rough form of exploration. The problem is that he is also the sort of man who keeps a leopard as a pet, leading to much tension between himself and Christian.
One of the best things about this film is how it humanizes its various strange creatures. The depiction of the people inhabiting the island is particularly effective, and you begin to understand the basis of their superstitions. The way that they react to Christian is almost like a cross between Tarzan and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and it’s a brilliant bit of world-building. While Christian doesn’t show much interest in other humans at first, it doesn’t take long for him to realize the importance of connecting with other people. And when he does, it’s mostly because of his children. Even the most outlandish and fantastical of the characters are endearing in their own right, and it’s a testament to the writing and acting that makes them shine.
Anyone who has ever suffered from depression will surely know what an important role music can play in helping to lift our spirits. It’s no coincidence that Christian’s quest for redemption is heavily influenced by the heavy metal music that he grew up listening to. The soundtrack for “The Lighthouse” is exceptional, and it really helps to accentuate the drama and tension. While I wasn’t entirely familiar with all of the songs, I immediately recognized “The Darkest Day,” and was struck by how effective it was. It helped to define Christian’s character and the circumstances of the story at hand – and it also served as a great accompaniment to the overwhelming sense of dread that hangs over the picture. Another highlight is “Raining Blood,” by British heavy metal band King Diamond. The song was written and performed by bassist John DiGiovanni, and his powerful lyrics perfectly match the film’s brutal and uncompromising theme. It’s a real gem.
While I certainly hoped for the best, I had low expectations for “The Lighthouse.” But my expectations were quickly surpassed, as I was totally won over by this magnificent film. I’m not sure if it’s the result of the incredible cast or the sensitive direction, but it’s clear that Marc Forster has hit upon something truly special here. Even if you aren’t familiar with the character of Christian, it is still recommended to watch this film. It will undoubtedly become a cult classic, and you will find yourself drawn back to it time and time again. I’m glad that I finally got a chance to see it, and I’m looking forward to rewatching it soon.