Review: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse screenshot

Year: 2019 | Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Lighthouse is a very hard film for me to pin down how I felt about it, because it’s such a unique mish-mash of film genres, literary references, symbolic imagery, psychological concepts and mythology.

For sure, the horror elements don’t really work for me; I think that when most people learn that I don’t really “do” horror movies, they think that it’s because I don’t like being scared or that I’m squeamish to gore, but the fact of the matter is that these elements simply don’t affect me at all. This isn’t some claim to macho-ness or whatever; I honestly feel like my brain isn’t able to fully suspend disbelief when it comes to simulated scary or suspenseful situations, so my natural reaction to movies that rely heavily on these elements is boredom rather than adrenaline. And so is the case with some aspects of The Lighthouse; there are parts of the film that kinda dragged for me where the intent was to build atmospheric tension. I recognize that this is not necessarily a fault of the film itself, but I also can’t pretend that it didn’t temper my enjoyment in places.

But, as a psychological character study, a literary and mythological fable, and a thematically-rich piece, The Lighthouse succeeds in almost every possible way. What this film has to say about subjects like masculinity, homoeroticism, dominance and submission, gender roles, and yes, even daddy issues is very much left up to interpretation, and it’s obvious that writer-director Robert Eggers wants each individual viewer to have their own idea of exactly what this film is about. As such, The Lighthouse is a film that I will likely carry with me for at least the next few days, as I pick my mind in moments of inactivity to try to piece it all together for myself.

And from a technical standpoint, this is just a remarkably well-crafted film. The implementation of an aspect ratio even narrower than 4:3 (one which I had never seen in film before) gives the film a unique, extremely claustrophobic visual style, and the cinematography and lighting make this feel like a film that was somehow shot during a time before cinema, tricking my brain into believing the impossible. It’s certainly one of the most visually-unique films I’ve ever seen.

As effective as the script and cinematography are here, though, the real reason that The Lighthouse works at all is because of the performances from Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. These are perhaps career-best turns from both of these distinguished actors, especially considering how easily the old-timey New England dialect and drunken shenanigans could have come off as absurd in less capable performers’ hands. The chemistry that these two have is simply electric, and I truly hope that they work together again some day.

All in all, the more I think about The Lighthouse, the more I find to praise, despite the fact that the horror elements don’t really work for me. Unlike most horror films, there’s plenty more to take in and enjoy here, which makes this film significantly more than meets the eye.

Language: English
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Runtime: 1 hr. 49 min.
Rating: R

Director: Robert Eggers
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman, Logan Hawkes, Kyla Nicolle

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