Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Michael Fassbender

The Light Between Oceans – Love Found, Lost, and Found Again


The Light Between Oceans directed by Derek Cianfrance is a beautiful and heartbreaking film. The light refers to the lighthouse on Janus, a fictitious island off the coast of Australia where the Great Southern and Indian Oceans meet. Besides a physical presence, the lighthouse serves as a metaphor. Despite a guiding light, some people, like ships, are destined to veer off course.

There are no villains in The Light Between Oceans, based on M.L. Stedman’s bestselling novel, just good people making bad decisions. Life is never fair, but when humans attempt to correct that imbalance on their own, the damage can be devastating, inflicting pain on the innocent.

World War I has ended and Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia, a hero who suffers from survivor’s guilt. Why did he live when so many others died? Meeting with officials in the small town of Partageuse, Tom is presented with the opportunity to fill in for the lighthouse keeper on Janus. He takes the job, welcoming the isolation and solitude the remote island will provide.

TomA young woman in Partageuse, Isabel Graysmark, has other plans. After meeting Tom during a dinner at the harbormaster’s home, she elicits a promise that he will write to her while on Janus. Their letters become more intimate, Tom opening up to Isabel in ways that surprise him. When Tom’s six-month stint is up, he returns to Partageuse and takes Isabel on a picnic. She expresses a desire to see Janus. When he tells her that only his wife can live there with him, she proposes, undeterred by the prospect of living alone with Tom on the island. Tom is offered the post full-time and he and Isabel are married.

shoreThe film is perfectly cast with Michael Fassbender playing Tom and Alicia Vikander as Isabel. It’s no secret that the two actors fell in love during filming and are now together. Their chemistry on screen is palpable adding to the realism of this touching love story. Isabel not only loves Tom, but loves their life on Janus. Polar opposites, Tom and Isabel nonetheless seem perfectly matched. Their solitude only deepens their love affair and, in the process, Tom begins to find a life he never thought was possible. He loves Isabel to the depths of his soul, but he’s also a man with a conscience. His two sides will come into conflict, forcing him to make a decision that he will later regret. Tom is the strong and silent type and Fassbender’s facial expressions and body language speak volumes. We can sense the turmoil boiling underneath Tom’s stoic exterior. Believing that past deeds have doomed him to a life of suffering, he accepts, even welcomes, that outcome.

Alicia and MichaelTragedy strikes when Isabel’s first pregnancy ends in an early miscarriage. While her second pregnancy holds more promise, a spontaneous birth ends up in a stillborn son. Isabel is inconsolable, having told everyone in Partageuse that they were expecting, she dreads telling her parents, who lost two sons in the war, that their hopes for a grandchild are slim. She spends her days on a hill staring at the two small white crosses honoring their dead babies. Vikander, who won an Academy Award this year for her performance in The Danish Girl, demonstrates that recognition was no fluke. Her performance is mesmerizing, taking us inside Isabel’s vortex of feelings. While her love for Tom is clear, even stronger is her desire to be a mother, to create the family she promised him and herself when she made the decision to live on Janus.

BabyWas it a coincidence, a test, or a cruel trick of fate? A small row boat lands on Janus carrying a dead man and a live infant. Tom’s first instinct is to record the event in the official log and contact the authorities. Isabel pleads with him to wait. A day turns into a few days. When it becomes clear to Tom that Isabel wants – needs – the baby she has named Lucy, he goes against his own judgment, burying the man and keeping the baby’s existence a secret.

Because Isabel was pregnant, Tom is able to tell Ralph and Bluey, the two men who visit Janus regularly to bring food and other supplies, that Lucy is theirs. Word gets back to Isabel’s parents who are eager to meet their grandchild. There’s a joyous greeting at the dock and a christening is planned. Outside the church before the vicar arrives, Tom sees a young woman kneeling before a headstone. After she leaves, he takes a look, startled to read the inscription: “In loving memory of Franz Johannes Roennfeldt, dearly beloved husband of Hannah, and of their precious daughter, Grace Ellen. Watched over by God.” Ralph explains to Tom that Hannah’s husband, an Austrian who was thought to be a German and targeted by locals still angry about the war, was chased down to the shore one evening. At Hannah’s urging, Franz took Grace and, hoping to escape the mob, jumped into a rowboat and pushed out into the inky waters. Franz and Grace were presumed lost at sea, leaving behind a grieving Hannah.

Hannah and her fatherTom is now hit with the full force of their actions. Their joy at having Lucy has come at another family’s expense. Tom and Isabel return to Janus, but he is haunted by Hannah’s despair. Years pass and the Sherbornes return to Partageuse for a celebration of the Janus lighthouse. Hannah and her sister, Gwen (Emily Barclay), daughters of the city’s wealthiest man, Sentimus Potts (Bryan Brown), are introduced to Isabel. Hannah is overcome with emotion upon seeing Lucy. Gwen explains to Isabel that Hannah’s daughter would have been Lucy’s age but was lost at sea with her father. Now Isabel also realizes the impact of that fateful decision. But, as she tells Tom, revealing the truth would mean disrupting Lucy’s life. Tom, however, remains conflicted and what he does next will set in motion events that will upend not only Lucy’s life but his and Isabel’s as well.

RachelRachel Weisz is perfect as Hannah, her anguish over losing her daughter matched only by her despair to win over her daughter later on. Yet perhaps the most effective player in the drama is Hannah’s dead husband, Franz (Leon Ford), who appears in flashbacks. Hannah once asked her husband how he could forgive those who wronged him. You only have to forgive once; but holding on to resentment lasts a lifetime. His answer resonates and will inspire Hannah to try to right so many wrongs.

The Light Between Oceans opens nationwide September 2, 2016.

Photos courtesy of Dreamworks

X-Men: Apocalypse – The X-Men Prepare for the End of the World


The X-Men franchise has been one of the most highly sustained superhero films for 16 years now. Six movies later, and there’s still some awe involved. In comparison to other films of its genre, and to other superhero characters in general, the X-men are probably the most relatable. The fact that they’re mutants fighting for equality speaks to a lot of the social issues that are still very relevant today. However, as a film, X-Men: Apocalypse is not the weakest movie of the franchise (that place is still held by X3: X-Men United), but the magnitude and character journeys aren’t as potent as they have been with its predecessors. Apocalypse is still entertaining and has some pretty good developments, but it isn’t as exciting as it touts itself to be and Oscar Isaac’s talent is wasted on a mediocre villain.

It’s been ten years since the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past and most everyone has gone their separate ways. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is now living the life of a normal man. He’s got a wife and daughter and works at a factory, his powers and hatred toward non-mutants seemingly set aside. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has opened up his home to serve as a school for mutants, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) still loyally by his side. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is working with other mutants, trying to help certain ones (like Nightcrawler, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) escape cruel treatment.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSEAside from the old crew of mutants, there are new ones in the fold. Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) has just developed powers, and so his brother Alex (Lucas Till) takes him to Xavier’s school where he can hone them and be a part of a community that accepts him. There, he meets Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), a powerful, but developing, telepath. Everything seems fine, but when CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) is investigating a long-dead and very, very powerful mutant called Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) in Egypt, things take a turn for the worse when he is reawakened. One of the first mutants and a man who can absorb and use the powers of others, Apocalypse wants a new world order and wishes to throw the Earth into chaos in order to create a better one. Recruiting four mutants he calls Horsemen–Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto–to help do his bidding, Xavier, Mystique and the rest must band together to try and stop him.

The film has a lot going on. There is the introduction of the new generation of mutants, the introduction of a new villain, and a reinstatement of Magneto as a character with motive. Some plot lines are wonderful, others eat up screen time without actually adding a whole lot to the overarching story. If you’ve been watching from the beginning, you know that Magneto (and his friendship with Xavier) has always been part of why the X-Men films worked. There was gravitas to his story, reason behind his actions, and a weight to his decisions. However, Apocalypse has almost formally renounced all of these things.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSEHaving said that, several of the older generation of mutants (Mystique, Magneto, Beast) have tapped out in a way, and it’s easy to assume that they’ve all played their parts long enough and now’s the time to move forward with the new mutants and their stories. I don’t want to continue seeing a washed-up Magneto, as there’s no more interest and no more purpose to the story to present him in this way any longer. The X-Men films have always been strong on the whole. Apocalypse retains entertainment value, introduces us to interesting characters, and has some action-packed scenes that please (the fight in the midst of the astral plane is fantastic!). However, the pitfalls of the film lie with Apocalypse as a villain. He isn’t very enthralling and lacks the sinister-like traits that have been promoted in the trailers. It’s the end of the world when Apocalypse shows up, but everything he does, from recruiting the Four Horsemen, to causing chaos, falls short and is underwhelming. The role isn’t as multifaceted and it’s hard to ultimately care about Apocalypse’s actions when they aren’t very clearly tied to the other characters in a more personal way. Apocalypse is just kind of there and his presence never warrants any excitement.

This is not to say that every aspect of Apocalypse is underwhelming. There is still plenty to enjoy. The introduction of Scott, Jean, Nightcrawler, and Storm rings in a new era of mutants. Their background stories are given a bit more weight than they ever were given in the first round of films. Jean, in comparison to the older version we first meet in X-Men, is a much more powerful psychic, and the film teases the botched Phoenix story from X3. By the looks of it, it’s the beginning stages of this arc (although how well it’ll play on the big screen without involving certain other elements is yet to be seen). The new recruits are the best part of the film. Their potential as a team is touched upon here and definitely sets up their teamwork and further character development moving forward.

X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t the event many may expect it to be, but it does introduce enough new characters and possible story lines for the next adventure. As for this film, the action is fun, the astral plane fight wonderful, the new mutants great, but the villain (and his plan) ultimately falls flat. It is the weakest film since X-Men: First Class and there are a lot of moments that are meant to be poignant that don’t follow through in terms of emotional impact or investment. Bryan Singer has potential to make the next film better, but until then, Apocalypse settles at being average.

X-Men: Apocalypse opens nationwide May 27, 2016.


  1. (from left) Jennifer Lawrence as Raven / Mystique, Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, James McAvoy as Charles / Professor X, Lucas Till as Alex Summers / Havok and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy / Beast. Photo Credit: Alan Markfield.
  2. Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac). Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.
  3. Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean (Sophie Turner) Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox.