An overwrought black-and-white melodrama of grubby masculinity, Roger Eggers’ The Lighthouse is too self-consciously arty to be genuinely engaging.
Grizzled lighthouse keeper Tom Wick (Willem Dafoe) and new recruit Winslow (Robert Pattinson) arrive through mist and crashing waves to an isolated island. There for four weeks to tend the lighthouse, Wick spends his time drinking and jealously guarding the light. He makes Winslow do all the menial tasks and his meek acquiescence eventually turns into anger and delirium.
We know this is melodrama as the overwrought soundtrack signals every move, underpinned by the earshattering warning horn that sounds through day and night. Dafoe is splendid as the stereotypical crazy, despotic seadog and Pattinson is fine, although he mumbles his way through often incomprehensible dialogue. There are hallucinations of mermaids – so a woman could be included in the film as largely an object of lust and masturbation – and the line between reality and delusion is deliberately vague. The location is dramatic and the black-and-white creates some beautiful imagery but the film seems to be on a single note. We don’t really care about the characters and there was much laughter at the more over-the-top moments.
The ending is perhaps a reference to Greek mythology that may or may not have significance. By that point, the only character I was barracking for was the gull.
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