Back in the late 19th century, two men find themselves stranded on a remote island, left forced to dwell within their lighthouse workplace when a vicious storm soon prevents them from returning home. Experienced elderly sailor Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) is accompanied by lightkeeper for hire Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson); dwelling in the lighthouse with naught but their own unwanted company slowly takes its toll, deteriorating them within as time progresses.
The first thing to notice in The Lighthouse is of course its unique cinematography. This film adopts a black and white colour palette with some high contrast ratios, coupled with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which all conveys a traditional feel that fits snuggly with the film's remote, claustrophobic setting and way back when time period. It may not win over the more casual cinemagoers, but it's still a unique and effective appearance that once again works with the film's premise, as well as its eerie atmosphere on numerous occasions. However, such eerie moments and visual charm don't always fight off the story's tonal inconsistencies, which even some of the more positive reviews seemed to have highlighted. Some consider it more of a dark comedy, despite its official branding as a psychological horror; it's not always sure what conventions to adopt and so perhaps its scarier moments aren't always as effective.
Of course another source of extensive praise are the leading performances from both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, and such praise is definitely warranted. When it comes to their actual characters, they don't always have the most interesting chemistry; it's quite repetitive with their non stop bickering and sporadic drunken antics, but this certainly doesn't change the fact that both actors gave it their all from start to finish. Dafoe's performance is both witty and amusing, though also the source of some intimidating behaviour that the audience can feel just as much as Pattinson's character can. Less is more when it comes to Pattinson himself, and while his largely reserved performance may not always be the most compelling, he still does a good job of portraying his character's vulnerability and bottled frustration, which takes a darker turn as things progress.
But The Lighthouse has one major flaw that overwhelms many of its best merits: it's just boring. Clearly most people don't agree considering the universal acclaim it has earned, but this near two hour tale has a sluggish pace and many repetitive scenarios that fail to add any serious drama. Perhaps things do admittedly liven up as we approach the more climactic moments, but you may just find yourself waiting impatiently for such scenarios rather than remaining compelled by all that occurs beforehand. Dafoe and Pattinson's refined performances help to bring more life to their characters, but their actual development within the script is relatively bland. They argue and drink many times, to the point where it can feel like you're watching the same scenes over and over, albeit with slightly different settings and dialogue. It's a sizeable downside that makes many scenes relatively dull, and while the film as a whole once again wins marks for its artistic appeal, it sadly doesn't offer a huge amount of genuine entertainment.