The Beautiful Ugly Acting Of Alicia Vikander

Warning! Contains spoilers for the film ‘The Light Between Oceans’

Ugly actors are my favourite, and I’m happy to add Alicia Vikander to the ranks for her amazing portrayal of Isabel in The Light Between Oceans. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

If you haven’t read one of my Ugly Acting articles before take a browse here, and if you’re wondering what in the world an ugly actor is, well, let me take a moment to define it for you.

When I was little, I wanted to be just like a beautiful fairy princess. The type where even in the midst of a battle, the scratches and scraps fell just right on my cheekbone, to accentuate my fiery beauty. Then I got older and realised this wasn’t a true reflection of real life. We shouldn’t wonder if we look beautiful doing something, we should be focused on the something we’re doing because THAT’S what’s beautiful to watch. 

Sometimes the ugly things of the world are the most breath-taking. 

Enter ugly acting: when an actor is 100% focused on the life of their character and less on how their hair is falling. But it can be more difficult to achieve than we think because it means we have to live the raw, unfiltered vulnerability of a part, and worry less on what people think of us.

Alicia does an incredible job of this in the film The Light Between Oceans. In fact, Vikander, Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz, and little Florence Clery all give stunning performances. But for this piece, I want to focus on Alicia.

The film is first and foremost a love story between a soldier returned from war and a woman who lost two brothers in that war and their life as Lighthouse Keepers. But it’s not just a romance, it’s full of heartbreak and explores what we do when faced with serious tragedy. 

For example, Alicia’s character, Isabel, is desperate to replace those lost brothers by beginning a family of her own, but experiences miscarriage after miscarriage, and begins to lose hope for a future. Just when it seems she can’t go on, a small rowboat washes to shore. Inside is the body of a man and a squealing infant. 

This is where we get to see one of Vikander’s ugly performances — which as a reminder, is an epic piece of acting. 

Upon discovery, Fassbender’s character, Tom, tells his wife they need to report the boat, body, and baby. But Isabel, overcome by this new hope, pleads with her husband to change his mind. The level of heightened emotion that Alicia brings to this scene is so uncomfortably raw, I almost had to look away. I didn’t want to see someone in such a heavy and ugly place. But it was also beautiful. That kind of gut-wrenching pain shown so expertly. 

Another of my favourite moments of Vikander’s ugly acting, came when Isabel realises she’s talking with her daughter’s real mother. The tension between fear, jealousy, and remaining pleasant and civil is beautifully ugly. It’s a departure from many films, where a character’s play it so cool in the face of such a deception. And I for one, really loved seeing this uncomfortable moment played so truthfully.

BUT, my absolute favourite aspect of this ugly acting came watching Alicia’s character exploring her new island home for the first time. Director Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines, Blue Valentine) wanted Vikander to experience the lighthouse setting for the first time as Isabel. She was blindfolded to the location and left in a dark room until the cameras were ready to capture her first sight of the place. 

In one interview, Vikander says her first take on location was about 45 minutes of reacting as Isabel, to her new home! And it shows when you watch the film. Her steps are hesitant sometimes and she even almost slips, but it’s real. It’s awkward and awesome, playing more like a documentary.

Alicia, Fassbender, Cianfrance and a small crew lived on location for the entire shoot! Vikander says in the same interview, that every morning she’d go fetch an egg from the hens and cook it in the house they’d later be filming in. It’s no wonder this film really shines with her ugly performance. And what a unique opportunity. 

Definitely check out Alicia Vikander’s ugly and awesome performance in The Light Between Oceans. And let us know in the comments what your favourite ugly moment was or if you’ve got other actors you think should be considered for an article.


  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time writes short stories and novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson


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