No. No no no no no no no. I only sat through the whole of this because there’s a Streep child in it, Richard Dreyfuss is Richard Dreyfuss and also doing a deeply strange accent (and probably therefore authentic) and Curious Caleb was having his colon irrigated and needed a hand to hold. Well, I say hold. I mean sit across the room from and wonder which tube is pouring our more shit, his or the TV.
I feel bad for writing that. Stick with The Lightkeepers. It won’t reward you but, you know, I had to.
It’s 1912 and Dreyfuss is playing the swarthily misogynist Seth. He runs a lighthouse and loses an assistant inside ten minutes – the departing boy pinpointing his entire character and making the next two hours redundant. Seth hates women for the same reasons poor boys hate ice cream. You work it out.
Out of the sea then pops the plummiest Wiltshire-born Englishman you’ll ever meet. Tom Wisdom, destined to be a sacrificed aristocrat in a ton of crinoline-led dramas, plays the forgetful John Brown. A posho who’s fallen off a boat, he recovers from drowning in plotholes and takes up the job of Seth’s assistant. And then they talk. And talk. And revile women like there’s a plot-point sneaking up on them…
A test. See whether you can hold your breath for longer than it takes to work out every remaining beat of the story. I’ll wait.
Well done. You lived.
The Lightkeepers is a story so gentle it doesn’t bother with drama. There are spurts of character comedy and one glorious moment that made Nurse Stabby-Fingers pause the jet sluicing out Caleb. For Mamie Gummer as Ruth goes where no Streep has gone before: the olde worlde swimsuit brighter than the sun. Ruth is the creative sort and goes swimming (ish) with John Brown and his silver spoon. Then they explain emotions to one another for an hour. Yup – they too talk. And talk. And taaaaaaaaaaalk.
So, to the oldsters for a bit of hope… Dreyfuss and Danner turn out to have a properly bizarre relationship. She is refined, gentle and does that grace thing that outclasses every actor since the 1940s. He is one ooo-argh and a parrot off heading for the Bahamas with a cutlass. She is both the cause and solution to his issues, but you know that, and one of the few joys in this flat film is watching them character-act through night-time encounters on the Cape Cod coast. If there’s a lesson for old age, it’s don’t give up, get used to each other, and keep talking dumbass. Nearly, but not quite entertaining.
And then Bruce Dern pops in as Bennie after the acting comes back down to a dull simmer. For a scene, it lifts.
Gah – Dreyfuss! Danner! Dern! A bit of a Streep and a surprisingly old posho! This film drops the ball through lack of air. Okay, so the old pros pawing the ground – sailing above and beyond the dull plot and unending dialogue – is a good reason to watch the last third of The Lightkeepers. Elsewise, skip it. Unless you’re clamped to a table with a hose up your nethers, in which case it’s the one thing in the room less grim than your bucket. But only just.