The Lighthouse (2019) Movie Review
Max and Robert Eggers
If you see only one lighthouse centered movie this year, make sure it’s The Lighthouse.
If you see only one movie in which Robert Pattinson masturbates multiple times in glorious black and white, make sure it’s The Lighthouse.
Since you all left to buy your tickets after that sentence I’m pretty much writing to an empty screen, aren’t I?
Well, I guess I’m just talking to you _______ (Your name here, except if it’s Glenn).
I’m here too. F*ck Glenn.
Thanks. I thought you would have left already since I know what a huge fan of lighthouses you are.
I’m actually terrified of lighthouses since my dad and mom got eaten in one.
You would be right in being afraid of this lighthouse, because it’s pretty disconcerting.
As you know by now, Lighthouse star Robert Pattinson (High Life) has been cast as the new Batman in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. Even though there hasn’t been a frame of that movie shot, The Lighthouse displays that Robert Pattinson can spend an inordinate amount of time with a much older man since that’s what Bruce Wayne does when he’s not fighting the Joker or moping about his dead parents.
I used to spend a lot of alone time with an old man.
The Lighthouse was co-written and directed by Robert Eggers, who wrote and directed 2015’s slow-burn masterpiece The Witch. Those of you that hated The Witch will no doubt dislike The Lighthouse as it’s about as anti-Blumhouse as it gets. Those of you with short attention spans will be looking at your phones before Willem Dafoe lights his pipe.
If you’re into cheap jump scares, The Lighthouse isn’t for you. I’m sure Countdown is still in about a dozen theaters.
If you’re into something truly alarming that rewards patience, then The Lighthouse may make you pleasure yourself…by watching the film. Because it’s very good.
The Lighthouse isn’t really that plot-heavy and it can be whittled down to something like, “Two men spend weeks in a lighthouse and possibly descend into madness.” That’s pretty reductionist, but also pretty accurate.
I’ll pad this word count so it looks like I’m trying.
We meet our two protagonists and pretty much the only two people in the film (maybe).
- Thomas (Willem Defoe)- Thomas is a crusty, flatulent old wickie (a nickname of lighthouse keepers since they trim the wick of the lamps) who takes great pride in running the lighthouse. How old is Thomas? He was around when Tobey Maguire was Spider-Man. He has a beard like steel wool and is sorry for being in Aquaman. He would be a sailor except for his jacked-up leg.
- Ephraim (Robert Pattinson)- It’s his first time working at a lighthouse, so be gentle. Eph used to work with timber, but he’s taken a lighthouse job for reasons he doesn’t want to tell Thomas but we’ll find out in about and hour of screentime. It seems like Eph is running away from something, but most of us have already forgiven him for being in those stupid Twilight movies.
Thomas and Eph are going to spend the next 4 weeks together maintaining the lighthouse until their relief comes. The audience gets the feeling that’s probably not going to happen.
Thomas proposes an inaugural toast to make sure that next 4 weeks go smoothly. Eph declines because he doesn’t drink. Tom says that’s bad luck. Eph reluctantly acquiesces.
Eph learns that Thomas’ previous assistant went mad. Possibly saw mermaids and was lured by the songs of sirens. Hanging out 24 hours a day with Thomas in a contained area, Eph realizes how that’s possible. Eph finds a tiny statue of a mermaid in the lining of his blanket, probably from his predecessor.
Thomas says that boredom is the worst thing in a lighthouse, and drinking is the only way to pass the time. Eph states again that he does not drink, which is never good to say in the first act of a movie because by act three you know he’ll be pounding them down like Brett Kavanaugh.
Instead of drinking, Eph prefers masturbation. The mermaid statue provides a handy visual aid.
Eph goes through the day-to-day minutiae of his lighthouse duties. He does all the grunt work of an assistant but he’s never allowed to go up to the actual lighthouse.
If Eph isn’t mad by now, he’s getting there. Because he’s dreaming about mermaids and then starting to see them in his waking hours. He’s hearing noises that sound an awful lot like singing. Thomas is drinking more and acting crotchetier than before.
Even the seagulls are starting to stare Ephraim down.
As Ephraim’s 4 weeks are ending, Thomas alerts him that a massive storm is coming. If the storm doesn’t clear in time, the relief will be delayed. Possibly for months.
Tom and Eph put the lighthouse on lockdown. Eph still hopes Tom will let him see inside the lighthouse, but he’s so protective with those keys.
And now things get really weird…
What Works With The Lighthouse
- Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are the second best onscreen duo of 2019, behind Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Tom and Eph are far from the friends Cliff and Rick are, but they more than hold the screen for the 2-hour running time. Dafoe and Pattinson have never been better so there’s no need to separate them.
- Eph vs Seagull.
- What! What!! If this were set in 2003 you just know Lil Jon would put this in one of his songs. What!!!
- The nuttiest dance sequence since Midsommar.
- The screenplay by Max and Robert Eggers unexpectedly contain some of the funniest lines of the year. More than once you’ll find yourself laughing out loud…and then you’re not.
- The most haunting final image of 2019. You leave the movie on a perfect disquieting note.
What Doesn’t Work With The Lighthouse
- One person’s WTF! is another’s WTF?. Tonally, I liken this movie to 2017’s Mother!, a polarizing movie as I’ve seen this decade. I personally loved it, but if you didn’t, you’d be better off visiting an actual lighthouse than watching The Lighthouse.
While you wait the week before the excellent Doctor Sleep, make it your dark fate to see the beautiful nightmare that is The Lighthouse. Just allow for not much light at all.