“The Lighthouse” review by Alex and Nate Blake



Let me just start by saying that The Lighthouse will not be for everyone. It is kind of out there in a few different ways. It is shot in black and white, it does not have a typical plot structure, and there is a lot of symbolism that is left up to interpretation. This film is in no way a mainstream blockbuster. However, this is definitely a piece of cinematic art that will persist with time. That is not to say it is perfect. I have some definite qualms with aspects of the story. But, it is unique in the best way possible.


I think it’s an easy movie to overthink. One could spend an endless amount of time pondering the meaning behind its madness and its often surreal plot points. Yet it’s a film whose pleasures can be summed up quite simply. It’s a claustrophobic and nasty little tale about the disastrous effects a terrible roommate and undesirable living conditions can have on one’s sanity. The two man show of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson making each other’s lives miserable is entertaining enough, but of course director Robert Eggers throws in an angry one-eyed seagull, a giant mermaid vagina and enough farts to have an entire city block gagging. It’s wild, my friends. You can’t miss this one.

The plot centers around Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), who begins a month long contract job as a wickie under the supervision of Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Calling Wake a curmudgeon would be an understatement. Friendly and talkative occasionally and a cantankerous, abusive beast the rest of the time, Wake reserves the most unsavory of duties for Winslow. It doesn’t help that the island environment offers little escape from the domineering supervisor. Everything from the weather to the local wildlife is just as menacing as Wake, which takes a severe toll on Winslow.


It really is a simple story. Two men arrive at a lighthouse that they are maintaining for a four week assignment. The first half of the film really just focuses on establishing the characters and their relationship. I think it went on a bit too long. It became quite monotonous. However, by the end you see the necessity in this choice. It is just a matter of getting through it and knowing there is a payoff in the end. I don’t want to say a whole lot about the plot because it really is a story best not spoiled. I will say there is only one way this film could end and it does not disappoint.


It is technically a horror film, and it constantly earns that distinction from an atmospheric standpoint. Though the more grisly elements are saved for the second half, as you would probably expect, I really enjoyed the pacing and increasing tension throughout the first hour. The way these characters are introduced, and their initial interactions, sets up the dynamic perfectly. The performances are aided by the technical craft skills on display. Cinematographer Jarin Blaschke demonstrates how the 4:3 aspect ratio and black and white film can achieve their fullest potential. The composition is constricting in a way that emphasizes how trapped, essentially, these characters are.



The biggest surprise was really how funny this film was at times. It provided awesome juxtaposition to some of the really dark moments. I’m not surprised Nate already mentioned Willem Dafoe’s farting, but there are also several one liners that are quite memorable. Perhaps the thing that I enjoyed the most though is the fact that neither character is a protagonist or an antagonist the entire time. They really take turns playing these roles. Just when you think you have their relationship dynamic figured out, the perspective changes and you begin to question everything you believed before. Some viewers really will not enjoy this, but I found it to be the greatest strength of the story.


I’ve never been much of a fan of Robert Pattinson, but I like the performance he turns in here. I don’t envy anyone who co-stars with the notoriously scene stealing and film defining Dafoe, particularly when the cast only consists of three people. Yet neither of these performances is the bigger one. The two actors are perfect foils, and bring their own intensity to their respective roles.



I am not going to lie. I have been really on the fence about this movie ever since we walked out of the theater. Part of that has to do with ambiguity and symbolism utilized by the filmmakers. But I have been thinking about different aspects of the film since Saturday night. This alone suggests to me that I really enjoyed it. Just know that if you are looking for a very straightforward film with a strong message, this one is going to frustrate the hell out of you. But, hey, you will still enjoy it more than the older woman sitting next to me at the theater that definitely thought she was going to see a feel good love story that just happens to take place at a lighthouse.


I could tell from her exasperated sighs she really had no idea what she had bought a ticket to see. Let me rant about that for a bit. I’m the biggest proponent of going to films knowing as little as possible about them beforehand. If you’re going to do that though, you have to keep an open mind. You do not get to make a borderline scene because you went to see an R-rated film and it turned out to be very R-rated. If you want to go home and complain to people about what you saw or even write a negative review online, go ahead. But don’t sit there and take other people out of the experience because you can’t handle some nudity or profanity or a plot twist you don’t like. Let’s all agree not to sigh in frustration at movies we don’t like when we are in the theater. Eye rolls are the way to go. if you simply must channel your disdain in some physical manner, an eye roll is quiet and won’t bother anyone.

Nothing in The Lighthouse made me roll my eyes, but I didn’t like how long some of the drinking scenes went on. A couple of them took longer than necessary to get to the point. Eggers was probably trying to make sure some of the revelations that come out in these scenes flow naturally, but he overdid it just a bit.

If I haven’t made it clear yet, I’m not into a lot of the horror films that are considered Halloween favorites. I’m not that into the slasher genre and anything that is two hours of people dying in graphic ways. I’m much more into character driven and atmospheric suspense. I like Hitchcock, because while his films do feature acts of violence, there is a lot of buildup and the relatively low body counts are in service of a really great story. That’s how I feel about The Lighthouse. I’m not comparing Eggers to the master of suspense, but the style of this film is such that I can see it being a part of my Halloween watch list in the future.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s