The Lighthouse: Film Review

I was determined to see The Lighthouse at the London Film Festival but the timing never worked out so I have been waiting to see this film for almost three months. It wasn’t at all what I expected so I felt a bit deflated. It is so damn weird!

The film is set in the 1890s on a remote island in New England, where Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrives for his four-week post to help Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) tend the lighthouse, although his boss refuses to let him go near the lantern and makes him do menial chores and so the resentments and tension soon mount up. Add that into the mix with alcoholism, hallucinations and a brutal storm, it’s no surprise they start to lose their minds.

The Lighthouse is shot in grainy black and white in a ratio that looks almost square so it looks very old school, so that might put some viewers off. I personally found it refreshing seeing a modern film that looks so unique and distinctive. Robert Eggers brought more work on himself and the team choosing to shoot this way and so I’m glad it has been nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar.

My main issue with The Lighthouse is how bloody weird it is. I was thinking “WTF?!” constantly. The fact the men have hallucinations means there is a narrative reason why we see all this batshit imagery, but it still put me off slightly. However, the direction and dialogue kept me hanging in there. I was gripped by the evolving relationship between the two men and how it was building towards something big and the screenplay during their conversations was so good. I enjoyed so many of their interactions, particularly the later ones, and it was funnier than I expected.

I must give these actors props for fully committing to these roles and signing up for all manners of craziness. Pattinson, in particular, has been making really interesting choices in recent years and nothing seems too weird or too far for him. Dafoe has also got some bold films on his resume and he is equally impressive yet totally bonkers. They give their all to this film and it looked like such an exhausting job. They also adopt accents that were difficult to place and occasionally I struggled to understand what they were saying.

There is less horror content in The Lighthouse than I was expecting but it is definitely a successful psychological and atmospheric thriller that builds to an exciting climax. It is claustrophobic, atmospheric and it’s not always clear what’s real or not. Therefore, it will not be many people’s cup of tea. I could appreciate it in terms of filmmaking and acting and there are moments I loved – especially nearer the end – but I didn’t actively enjoy it and wouldn’t be in a hurry to see it again.

In selected cinemas Friday 31st January 

Rating: 3.5/5

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