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Lighthouse, The


Stars: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson

Director: Robert Eggers

This is like Long John Silver meets Norman Bates, and not in a good way. In a film shot in a black-and-white process as murky as the 19th century weather, two keepers make their way to a desolate lighthouse off the coast of Canada.

One (Dafoe) is a grizzled, pipe-smoking alcoholic full of windy aphorisms, the other (Pattinson) a younger man with a skeleton in the closet of his past, and repressed violence suppurating under his skin. An abstainer, he is soon joining in the liberal downing of cheap booze, as the men descend through alcohol into madness, fuelled by a mutual loathing.

There's shouting matches, hallucinations, boring looks-at-length at the lighthouse's mechanism and even a mermaid (yes, a mermaid), or maybe she's a sex-driven chimera.

Dafoe has a fine old time hamming it up, while Pattinson's demeanour is as miserable as his strange, rootless accent.

Some critics, I suspect, may like this a lot. It's arty, pretentious as hell and shot in monochrome and an almost square ratio; but honestly you could fast forward it at twice the normal speed, with subtitles for dialogue and not miss a thing. That was a luxury this critic longed for.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2019. UK Distributor: Universal. Black and white.
108 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 25 Jan 2020