The Lighthouse, the horror follow-up to director Robert Eggers’s The Witch, features a tiny but enviable cast. For his second movie, following in the footsteps of his wildly successful debut The Witch, Robert Eggers decided to stick to horror, albeit with a much weirder streak. In The Lighthouse, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, two men find themselves struggling with loneliness, madness, and possibly the supernatural as they spend several weeks isolated from society while minding a lighthouse.
Like The Witch, The Lighthouse is fascinated by minute historical details and the complexities of each era's language. However, this film is a much more darkly funny affair, one full of strange one-liners, extremely inadvisable types of alcoholic drink, and many farts. The movie opens in limited release today and is already a critical darling, with a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes. One of The Lighthouse’s unique selling points is its cast. For the vast majority of its 110-minute running time, the film has two characters and nobody else. This is not unusual, although it’s certainly something that helps The Lighthouse stand out among a crowded field of new and awards-worthy releases.
Ultimately, this is a story of isolation and the emotional trauma that can build when you are stuck with nothing but your own thoughts and someone who is your polar opposite in every way. It doesn’t hurt that both actors – Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson – are at the top of their game right now. Dafoe gives one of his most esoteric and complete performances in years (which is no mean feat given his four Oscar nominations and history of strange characters) while Pattinson proves once and for all that not only is he one of his generation’s most fascinating young actors but that he is more than ready for Batman. Here’s our breakdown of the tiny but brilliant cast of The Lighthouse.
Robert Pattinson as Ephraim Winslow - Winslow is the rookie who has taken his first job as a lighthouse keeper after years working as a timberman. He's seeking a new life and thinks the solitude of the lighthouse business will give him direction and peace from his demons. However, he is cynical of the occupation's endless superstitions and has no real interest in the endless drudgery the job requires. Plus he's constantly being bothered by demonic dreams, an especially evil seagull, and his colleague's farting. Robert Pattinson has become an indie darling post-Twilight, thanks to films like Cosmopolis, Good Time, and The Lost City of Z. In The Lighthouse, he gives one of his most giddily demented performances as a man losing his grip on reality. Coming up next, Pattinson can be seen in the Netflix drama The King. He's currently filming the secretive Christopher Nolan film Tenet and, of course, then there's The Batman.
Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake - Where Winslow is petulant and uncommitted to his job, Thomas Wake is his polar opposite. A gnarly veteran of the sea life (or so he claims), Wake is dedicated to serving the lighthouse. He tries to keep Winslow in his place and warn him of the many superstitions of the job - seemingly everything is bad luck for lighthouse keepers - but may have an underlying agenda. The Lighthouse is the sixth film of the ever-prolific Willem Dafoe to receive a 2019 release. This year, he received his fourth Oscar nomination for playing Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate and also starred in one of the biggest commercial hits of his career, Aquaman. Next, he can be seen in Edward Norton’s drama Motherless Brooklyn.
Valeriia Karaman as The Mermaid - For most of The Lighthouse, the two male leads are the only featured players, but then Winslow is met by a strange creature who may or may not be real. After finding an old sailor's carving of a mermaid, he uses the idol as fantasy fuel for the long, lonely nights, and the audience is shown a sexual encounter between him and a beautiful but deadly mermaid. It's debatable whether the moment actually happened or not, keeping with the film's hallucinogenic style, but it's certainly one of the movie's standout scenes. Valeriia Karaman is a model who has posed for various editions of Elle and Vogue magazine, and makes her movie debut in The Lighthouse .