Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: The Lighthouse

Release date: November 1, 2019
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman 

The Lighthouse focuses on two men (Pattinson and Dafoe), working on a remote lighthouse in New England.  Wake (Dafoe) is the old timer who has been doing this for far too long, and he strictly keeps Winslow (Pattinson) in line as he takes care of the day to day tasks.  Despite this being a small island, there is always something to do.  And the two can go months without seeing another soul, with the only human interaction in the that time being each other.  And being so isolated in such a mundane place can have an effect on anyone, and start to change your psyche as a result.  

The first thing you will notice about this movie is that it is shot in black and white and in a 4:3 aspect ratio.  Both of these seem to be intentional choices, and both help to focus the viewer on how isolating and mundane this lighthouse and the jobs around it are.  The black and white means that everything looks bland and dark, and the 4:3 aspect ratio makes you focus on the characters and helps to have the film feel isolating.  Without being able to see any of the surroundings, it really does feel like these characters are on their own.  And the film also does a great job of displaying just how desolate life is out here; it makes every task seem like a chore, taking much longer than one might expect.  Grabbing coal for the fire, well that requires using a rickety wheelbarrow up a large hill in the mud, in the rain.  The film does a great job of drawing out every task, and throwing obstacles in the way of our protagonists.  All of this helps to portray this lighthouse as a terrible place.  

This is helped along by some absolutely phenomenal performances from Pattinson and Dafoe.  Being that the lighthouse is basically empty, these two end up carrying the story on their own.  Pattinson in particular has to carry this burden solo, and he does an amazing job.  The man can act, and this is definitely a showcase for him.  If he was trying to shed his image from Twilight, well boy did he succeed in this film.  The story of the Lighthouse starts off as a mundane story about two men and slowly descends into a tale of madness.  Again, in this respect both Pattinson and Dafoe do an amazing job as the madness sets in and the scenes get more bizarre.  And again, Pattinson is particularly compelling and forced to carry much of this load.  The one downside to this film is that the ending, although fitting with the general theme and trajectory of the movie, is a little out there.  However, the entire journey to get there makes everything worth it. 

The Lighthouse has a distinctive and recognizable style, along with Oscar-worthy performances from its two leads. 

Watch it.

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