The best thing about The Lightkeepers, a new film by Daniel Adams, is the cinematography. The film was shot entirely on location on Cape Cod, and Adams and his cinematographer, Tom Jewett, fill the screen with a gorgeous expanse of beach, ocean, and blue sky in an attempt to capture what he considers the unique light on the Cape. He says that Jewett really succeeded in getting what he wanted: "The light here is a combination of water, sand, and sky that creates a richness I've never seen anywhere else. It's a big reason why the film looks so beautiful." Adams is right about that; The Lightkeepers is filmed beautifully.
If only the rest of the movie matched the cinematography. Unfortunately though it doesn't. Set in 1912, it is the story of two romances. Seth Atkins, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is a misogynistic lighthouse keeper who one day comes across a young man, John Brown (Tom Wisdom), collapsed on the beach. The young man explains that he has fallen from a passing steamer and claims that he has lost his memory. Atkins takes him on as an assistant, provided that he promises to have nothing to do with women. Of course, the next thing you know two women appear on the scene, an older one, Blythe Danner, working as housekeeper for a younger companion, played by Mamie Gummer. Romance ensues.
The problem is not that the story is bad, it's simply that it’s the kind of thing you'd expect to see on Lifetime, and its outcome is equally predictable. Some of the specifics may be moderately surprising, but the plot's climax is wholly expected. Moreover, though predictable, the characters' actions are not effectively motivated. The young lovers go swimming together; they sit on the beach and talk. Brown exudes a kind of Byronic melancholy, a mystery that is presumably attractive to women. The next think you know, they're in love. What happens is predictable because that's what happens in romantic comedies and this is a romantic comedy. Good romantic comedies can overcome the obvious ending by getting the viewer there with some stylishness. The road in The Lightkeepers, however, is a bit clunky.
The acting for the most part is competent. Blythe Danner has a twinkle in her eye and looks fetching in period costumes. Mamie Gummer is a natural; she is completely at home as a clued in young lady who says what's on her mind — a modern woman vintage 1912. Wisdom, on the other hand, can be a bit stagey, especially in his opening scenes, but overall he makes a nice romantic hero. Bruce Dern is wasted in a minor role, little more than a walk on. The big disappointment is Dreyfuss. He plays Atkins with a gravelly seaman's gargle that sounds like nothing so much as some pirate wannabe's "yarr." He is rarely convincing as a cantankerous curmudgeon, as often as not coming across as a seafaring leprechaun.
There are two very nice original songs in the movie that deserve some attention. "The Light Keeper" was written by Jonathan Edwards and is performed by the Makem and Spain Brothers. "If You're Wondering" was written and performed by Zana Mesihovic.
The Lightkeepers is the second film of a trilogy set on Cape Cod during the period before World War I. The first film in the trilogy, The Golden Boys was released last year. The three films are writer-director Adams attempt to create a new genre which he calls "Easterns." What he seems to have in mind is translating some of the defining qualities of the traditional Western to analogues in an eastern setting: the loner, the vast landscape, the lady in distress. These "Easterns" would also reflect the values of the Western. They would aim to tell adult stories that avoid the contemporary emphasis on sex and violence: adult stories with family values. While this is certainly a laudable goal, it would be achieved more effectively with a tighter script with more fully and realistically developed characters.