chavel’s review published on Letterboxd:
Move over, all Oscar-winning black & white crapola from the twenty-first century. The Lighthouse has an eye-popping starkness of its New England milieu; it's wet, cloudy, damp, musky in a way that's tactile in every shot. Sometimes the images can be shrouded in deception: We can be inside the lighthouse and unsure if we're on the bottom of it looking up or at the top looking down; the glass doors that contain the lighthouse's spotlight has a mystical chamber chiaroscuro quality to it. I do find the deliberate 4:3 aspect ratio however to be a dubious decision; if this film is not seen on the big screen then it will be a loss, I cannot stand that squishy boxed look on home video.
The two-hander drama has Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe holding fort during a very clammy season; Dafoe gabs profusive on rules, obligations, upkeep technique and Pattinson feels picked at when it comes to the way he likes to do things. Dafoe is once again a wonder at oddball prattling; even his farts are poignant. Pattinson looks more like a disenchanted 19th century man more than he sounds like one with his balmy vocal tones. There is an awkward struggle, as Pattinson cannot stand Dafoe at dinner. But Pattinson finds Dafoe tolerable once he turns to the bottle and gets sloshed after every meal.
Robert Eggers is the writer-director, and like his cult success "The Witch," he demonstrates an ability for desolate eeriness. But he's beholden too much by his Old English words (nothing wrong with that, except there's too many of them). He's trying to prove to you that he could have written in the Elizabethan Age, but the words spoken are less than crisp. After awhile, I care less about what Dafoe is jabbering on about as I put that aside and just marveled at what his behavior was telling us about him.
The theme is madness in isolation, and while the film puts somewhat of a spell on you, I think the longer it goes on it dissipates itself. It's leading somewhere, it's leading somewhere, and then... more set-up. It would have been a lot better off had it quickened to its finale while it had the momentum. To me, it’s hard to look back at the film in memory and find an order to it; it's all fractious pieces here and there.
The Lighthouse continues to offer more qualities; it probably has the most savage bird attacks since Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds," but although we're convinced birds can pick apart and shred clothing, we're not so sure these birds could have completely erased all evidence of clothing. It’s a spine-tingling image, nonetheless. The other resolve on the film is on Pattinson's character: Here's a mad dog who could have been a fine young man had he just chosen a different job.