Film Friday: The Light Between Oceans

‘You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.’

This is a heart-breaking tale of two mothers and one baby.
When Tom returns from World War 1 he takes a job as a lighthouse keeper. He then falls in love and marries Isabel, and they begin life together on the bleak island of Janus. After two miscarriages they are both heartbroken, but then Tom spots a drifting lifeboat, and when it washes up they discover a deceased father and a new baby on board. Tom knows he must report the incident but Isabel has already fallen for the child, and she suggests they keep the baby and tell everyone it is their own. Tom is torn in two about this, but eventually agrees to bury the father and adopt the baby. Four years pass and one day they meet Hannah, the real mother, at an event on the mainland.

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Tom and Isabel find themselves in a terrible situation. The girl’s heartbroken mother is still hopeful she will find her child again, and Tom knows he should tell her the truth. But Isabel sees herself as the little girl’s mother now and to let her go would bring a world of pain for her. One of the tales told of King Solomon, to demonstrate his wisdom, concerns two mothers and one baby. (1 Kings 3 vv 16-28) When the mothers come before the king they are both claiming the child is theirs. So the king, not mincing his words or wisdom, orders that the child be cut in two so they can have half each. He knows that the real mother will never want this and when she protests and offers the baby to the other woman he can tell she is the real mother. I’m not sure that either Hannah or Isabel would have wanted their little baby dissected for the sake of truth. I’m sure they would have both offered the child to save its life. One of the agonising things about this film is the depth of love both women have for the little girl. That reminds me of one of the descriptions of God’s love for us in the Bible. Isaiah 49 verse 15: ‘Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on my hand…’ The devotion, love and pain of both Hannah and Isabel remind me of the dedication and love that God has for you and I. Not shunning the pain in doing what was needed for us, giving us his own son. And your name, tattooed on God’s hand.

One other thought. Hannah’s husband (the real, now deceased, father) was German and in a flashback we see Hannah ask him how he is able to be so contented, after living a quite difficult life. He replies, ‘You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.’ Her husband’s advice comes back to Hannah and has an impact on her own actions.

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