A rugged, windswept bush-clad island in the Cook Strait, New Zealand, 1900. Joseph is a young lighthouse keeper struggling to wrench a life for his pregnant wife and young boy in the harsh environment. They have run out of conventional fuel for the light; they will lose their livelihood if the light fails. The family resorts to rendering fuel from bird fat, which requires slaughtering hundreds of the island’s birds, and boiling them up in an iron ‘digestor’. In the embers of the forest burn-off (to flush the birds out), his boy discovers a large mysterious egg.
Joseph’s wife has trouble with the baby and she and the boy are emergency evacuated to the mainland. Isolated and sleep-deprived by his lighthouse keeping duty, Joseph keeps the light burning for their safe transport. He struggles to keep awake. Meanwhile the egg grows bigger and bigger. In a storm, a creature hatches. He is wary, but intoxicated by the exotic creature, Ava.
Hunched by the lantern, with no fuel left and at his wit’s end, Joseph is approached by Ava. She lulls him into using blood dripping from her cut palm as lantern fuel. Beguiled by the ensuing glow he falls — finally — into a deep sleep, and neglects the light. Darkness comes.