Review: The Lighthouse

Ethan Murphy, Reporter

Salty air, stale tobacco and shadowy guilt are portrayed in “The Lighthouse,” which premiered Oct. 18. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe play two lighthouse keepers struggling to maintain their sanity on an unforgiving island. In isolation, the only things keeping them sane are chain smoking and drunken conversation—at first.

The film has a harsh and mysterious start with loud waves crashing around a steamship, and shows the backs of the pair as they travel to the island. Once they arrive, Thomas Wake, the grizzled lighthouse keeper played by Dafoe, forbids his new assistant Ephraim Winslow, the greenhorn played by Pattinson, from tending to the lighthouse. Instead, he tasks Winslow with scrubbing the decaying shack’s floor and shoveling coal day after day. 

Is Winslow on this island alone? Has he lost his mind? Is he on this island, or simply imagining it?

At first, Winslow speaks little and maintains a sober mind, but as the film edges onward, the two spiral into late nights of drunken uproars. As a result of the heavy drinking, Winslow misses his ship back to the mainland, leading to a prolonged stay on the island for both of them.

Matters become considerably worse as the weather turns, and storms wreak havoc over the island for a long time. Wake, a devout student of sailor’s myths, blames Winslow for the weather because he killed a seagull, which is bad luck. Underneath all of the crisis surrounding the men lies their declining mental states. The film documents their downward descents with visions of mermaids, loss of time passed, and an implication that Wake may not exist at all.

Though never confirmed, this adds an eerie twist to things after Winslow confesses guilt over a death he did nothing to stop. Is Winslow on this island alone? Has he lost his mind? Is he on this island, or simply imagining it?

“The Lighthouse” explores the fragility of the human mind, while never providing any answers. The words unspoken and the scenes unshown say the most, allowing wide interpretation. Undoubtedly, the open ending and unique atmosphere will make this movie an instant classic for anyone searching for the light.