Megan’s review published on Letterboxd:
I don't normally write long-winded (pun?) reviews on here, as I write for my own blog and a school publication, but I have no idea where else to put this. I think this is a great movie. Pattinson and Dafoe are phenomenal. The film is gorgeous, the aspect ratio and black and white are enchanting. The story is engaging, funny, and frightening. But at the end of the day, this leaves me empty.
I see a lot here: references to Moby Dick and Prometheus; symbolism in the mermaid figure and the lighthouse itself; pathetic fallacy in the weather; giant ideas of gaslighting, madness, identity, and guilt. This is all a lot of stuff that makes for something that will be regarded as a classic; it wants you to think. Unfortunately, it just doesn't follow through on much for me to find it very powerful.
The film is powerful in the more visceral sense, with raw violence, sexuality, and emotions meant to shock and entertain. And it certainly does both of those things. However, it feels as if it has nothing to say, nothing to make you feel anything beyond initial shock and the impacting experience. This movie is anything but forgettable, but it feels incomplete. Eggers has stated that the movie is up for interpretation, that anyone can interpret it however they see fit, which is fine. What I think this does, however, is create an intentional lack of meaning. It can mean everything and nothing, and that's OK with the filmmakers.
For me, it leaves me with nothing. I understand the concept clearly, I understand people's ideas and theories, but I feel nothing. I am left with a film with no true emotional core, with nothing to say except "hey isn't this a crazy concept?!" It leaves me lacking in the same way that Midsommar did, a movie that had a clearer message but less satisfying characters. Pattinson and Dafoe are incredibly engaging but they leave me with nothing. Their characters feel like they exist to be tortured without real purpose.
Maybe it's just not for me, and that's ok. There's been a lot of media and art I've consumed this year that simply hasn't grasped me the way I think it's supposed to. Things that have big names behind them, or are simply gargantuan titles, have just felt like they exist to be studied, for people to write research papers, think-pieces, or book reports on them. This will be studied for years to come and I understand why: on a technical scale, it's genius.
I think, for me, this movie knows what it wants to do, it just doesn't know why.