The Lighthouse is based on the true story of two lighthouse keepers on a small remote island 25 miles off the coast of Wales in 1801. The story of Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith is a fascinating tale that really conveys the hardships of manning a lighthouse at the turn of the 19th century.
The lighthouse that the two men kept was nothing like what one pictures now when thinking of a lighthouse. It was named Smalls Lighthouse and was constructed on a small rocky island in 1775 on top of tall oak beams that allowed waves to crash through the lower portion of the lighthouse during the terrible storms that plagued the island. The two-man lighthouse crews would live in a small wood hut high up on the oaken legs with the lighthouse lamp directly above their cramped living quarters.
At the time, two-man crews would rotate out month-long shifts in the remote lighthouse to keep the lamp lit and prevent ships from crashing onto the rocky shore of the small, dangerous island. During the month-long shift of Mr. Howell and Mr. Griffen, a storm hit the island unlike anything seen in years. The men tried to signal ships to come help, but the storms prevented all rescue. For a total of 4 months, no one was able to reach the island to relieve the lighthouse keepers, or even get close enough to signal them. By the time ships were able to reach the island, what they found was enough to cause an immediate change to the policy for manning lighthouses.
The film takes these events and retells them with some minor changes but keeps the story very close to the true events of the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy. If you don’t know the true story, I recommend reading about it after watching this film. It is a fascinating story and The Lighthouse does an amazing job telling it.
The film takes place almost entirely inside of the cramped lighthouse with the two lighthouse keepers, so the portrayal of those characters must be well executed. Thankfully, Michael Jibson and Mark Lewis Jones are more than up to the task. Jones is amazing as Thomas Griffith, an quiet man with a clear rage bubbling just beneath the surface, and Jibson really conveys the inner turmoil of Thomas Howell, a quiet, religious man with a dark stain in his past.
From the get-go, you can really feel the tension between the men, hinting at something in their history. As the events of the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy unfold, it is an absolute pleasure to watch them interact. Both men are dealing with dark events in their past, and the story becomes more and more interesting as you learn more about each of them and their history. There is a lot of anger between them, and it comes boiling to the surface as the storm rages all around the lighthouse. Jibson’s portrayal of Howell really shines in the third act as Howell slowly deteriorates mentally due to the ordeal in the lighthouse.
I can’t state strongly enough how beautiful this film is. The exterior shots of the island really convey the isolation of the lighthouse and the set design for the cramped lighthouse interior really feels authentic. Throughout, The Lighthouse does a fantastic job with sound and especially cinematography. The camera shots and cuts are done in such a way that as a viewer you truly feel the isolation, claustrophobia, fear, anger, panic, and even pain as the events of the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy unfold.
My only minor complaint with The Lighthouse is that the pacing is slow going at the outset Some may find the first two acts to be a bit dull. I was personally very drawn in by the characters and the visuals, so the film kept my attention the whole way through.
What I Liked
Beautiful and creative cinematography.
Excellently acted and well-written characters.
What I Didn’t Like
Somewhat slow pace, especially at the outset.
The Lighthouse Final Word 8/10
The Lighthouse is an outstanding success in visual storytelling. The characters and the tragic true story of the events of Smalls Lighthouse will keep you enthralled as long as you can handle the slower pace.
Originally released in the UK, The Lighthouse finally makes its US debut. Directed by Chris Crow, and nominated for five BAFTA awards including Best Director and Best Actor, winning Best Visual Effects, The Lighthouse opens in select theaters July 6 and VOD July 10. Keep up to date by following Uncork’d Entertainment on Facebook and Twitter.
Note: This film was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgment or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.