Toronto 2019: The Lighthouse

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse. Courtesy of TIFF.

The Lighthouse features two very strong performances from both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in this beautifully shot movie.

Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Efraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) are lighthouse keepers in this period piece set off the coast of 1890s New England.  When a four-week period is over, a storm hits the island.  This means that their ride back to the mainland will never arrive.  One could already feel the tension in the room boiling.  It is going to get very ugly and very quick.  Wake is a veteran while Winslow is a rookie.  The veteran never misses a chance to put Winslow down.  What happens when Wake and Winslow get stuck?  It means rationing their already dwindling supplies of food and alcohol.  Before we know it, the duo begin to lose their minds and go out of control.

Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke can do no wrong in my book.  He is the same cinematographer who handled duties on Richard Raymond‘s Souls of Totality and A Million Eyes.  The former took home a Solzy Award for Best Short Film last year.  It should come as no surprise that his work in this film is just as superb.  There are times during this film in which the camera has a mind of its own but in a beautiful way.  The 1.19:1 aspect ratio is a throwback to the early days of filmmaking when sound was introduced.  This isn’t the only thing.  The cinematographer gives it a feel that’s very reminiscent of the film’s period setting.  One cannot just leave the theater with plans to digest this film immediately.  This is going to be impossible.  It’s one that you have to let sink in on its own time.

The film has a whole just benefits from a splendid sound design.  It’s one of the things that you can’t help but notice especially when there are times in which the dialogue is light.  The sounds in general are just as noticeable even as Wake and Winslow begin to lose it.  Moreover, Eggers pays tribute to literary classics that came years before.

Regardless of the buzz from Cannes in May, there were a few things that I was not expecting.  Thomas Wake could easily be placed in the Blazing Saddles campfire scene because of his gas issues.  If there was one thing that I was not expecting, let’s just say that it’s Robert Pattinson’s Efraim Winslow doing his thing…you know, masturbating.  We also get some nude mermaids during a few hallucinating sequences.  If there’s a category of Pattinson fans that are PETA activists, I’m sorry to say that this film is not for you.  Even if the act is CGI, the scene in particular is gruesome.

It’s obvious that The Lighthouse isn’t going to be for everyone but there’s something about this film that feels very special.  While there are thrilling aspects, it’s not a simple popcorn movie.

DIRECTOR:  Robert Eggers
CAST:  Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson

The Lighthouse holds its North American premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. A24 will release the film on October 18, 2019. Grade: 4.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.