Taylor Williams’s review published on Letterboxd:
As much as Eggers is branding himself very specifically, this is a very different emotional toll than The Witch. It isn’t the same gut-wrench that that movie is, but the mystique of the island is just as effective, if not more alluring, than the forest in The Witch. It also reminded me that I read a surprising amount of books about lighthouses as a kid, so I feel like a lot of their allure was already engrained in me.
Part of why I think his previous film hurts on a deeper level has to do with the lack of a grasp on reality in this one. The Witch is mostly literal until the end, where it begins to suggest more surrealism (though I think we’re still supposed to take that ending literally with the Folk Tale grain of salt), but because of Pattinson’s character in The Lighthouse, it crosses a narrative threshold after which it’s open to interpretation what’s actually happening. Unfortunately, that means we can’t really feel the same visceral punch if we’re not entirely sure what we’re watching is happening. This would suggest that the film is maybe sacrificing some feelings to give more room to think, but I also feel like at the end of the day, deciding what “literally” happened is completely arbitrary; Eggers is clearly more interested in the experience more than anything.
And that’s not to say the movie doesn’t deliver an experience. The stuff I just mentioned was a bit of a mental roadblock for me in terms of completely feeling what we’re supposed to feel, but everything else about this film is immaculate (I’ll be doing a deep dive into reading about the gear they used, because that 1.19:1 aspect ratio is fully organic in-camera from what I’ve read and not just a wacky A24 aesthetic) and, more than anything, fun. I can easily say I didn’t want it to end, and I’ll be rewatching it in a heartbeat.
I definitely feel this becoming a modern classic in the exact same way The Witch is, and maybe I’ll even bump it to 5 like I did The Witch, but for the time being, there’s much to think about, and much I’m probably not supposed to think about.