Review – The Lighthouse (2019)

Good afternoon, dear readers. Apologies for the radio silence, but my March motivation sort of vanished into thin air when life ground to a halt. Funny, that. Anyway, as it’s been so long and my grades have come back, I’m now able to share some of the work I submitted (or at least, the stuff I don’t intend to work on further). So while I recover some motivation for other content, here’s my Journalism coursework review of one of my favourite films: The Lighthouse. Enjoy!


In 2015 Robert Eggers impressed critics and audiences with his written/ directorial debut The Witch with its slow, creeping sense of dread and mounting supernatural tension. Making around $40 million on a $4 million budget, the film was successful for both Eggers and distributor A24. When Eggers announced his next project, another period-piece with a two-man cast this time, the horror world awaited the results with great interest.

The setup of The Lighthouse is fairly simple. Assistant lighthouse keeper, or “wickie”, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) accompanies the elderly wickie, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) on a four-week contract to work at an isolated lighthouse off the coast of New England. To give more detail would be both a great disservice to the film and a potential spoiler.

The skills Eggers first showed us with The Witch are firmly cemented in The Lighthouse. The screenplay, co-written by both Robert and brother Max Eggers, is a delightful journey of paranoia and tension between the two men. Where The Witch was concerned more with femininity, The Lighthouse is a stark and brutal portrayal of toxic masculinity and loneliness. The dialogue all seems appropriate for the late 19th century setting, especially Wake’s rambling and cursing, giving it the salty sea-dog seal of approval.

Pattinson and Dafoe play perfectly off each other; the former as the frustrated young newcomer, the latter as the authoritative ex-seamen, their chemistry alternating between camaraderie and adversity. Pattinson’s performance oozes caged frustration, giving a sense of the internal conflicts his character faces. Unfortunately, his accent doesn’t always remain consistent, which is the only criticism I can give of an otherwise stellar performance. Dafoe’s pirate-like accent and broad range work wonders for Wake, as he keeps both Winslow and viewers guessing as to his true motivations. While Pattinson isn’t short on great lines, Dafoe does get some of the scripts’ more bombastic and impressive stuff. One monologue is delivered so brilliantly that I firmly believe it should be shown in acting masterclasses for years to come.

Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography moves between beautiful, bizarre and nightmarish yet is always legible to the viewer, never over-cluttered or complicated. Some of the most memorable shots in the film are the simplest, and some weave in and out of the film as though beautiful paintings have been slipped in to reinforce the film’s iconography. The cinematography, as well as use of black-and-white and the 1.19:1 aspect ratio give the film a much more “arthouse” vibe than The Witch: Thankfully the film avoids any pretentious stereotypes of that association.

The soundtrack by Mark Korven helps to build on the film’s sense of overwhelming loneliness, both accompanying and mimicking the foghorn that batters the eardrums of characters and audience members alike. The sound design itself is great; aside from the foghorn the wind howls and the keeper’s house creaks, all accompanied by subtle drones and swelling blares from Korven’s score.

Every once in a while, a film appears where you can feel the care and craft oozing out of every moment, where all the components blend together perfectly to create something beautiful. The Lighthouse is one of these films, and I cannot recommend it enough.

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