By the Sea

"OK"

By the Sea Review


For their first on-screen partnership since Mr & Mrs Smith a decade ago, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie team up for this period drama about a strained marriage, written and directed by Mrs Jolie Pitt herself. It's made on a lavish scale, with achingly beautiful locations and costumes, plus references to classics from Plein Soleil to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. But none of that can hide the fact that this is a stilted, contrived movie about two loathsome people we wouldn't want to spend five minutes with, let alone two very long hours.

It's the mid-1970s on the Mediterranean coast in southern France, and Americans Roland and Vanessa (Pitt and Jolie) descend into an isolated cove for a getaway to rescue their collapsing relationship. A novelist, Roland is also trying to snap out of writer's block, so he explores local village and chats with cafe owner Michel (Niels Arestrup) for inspiration. Meanwhile, Vanessa prowls around their vast suite in a grand villa perched on the edge of the sea, latching onto the newlywed couple (Melvil Poupaud and Melanie Laurent) in the room next door. But something deeply damaging has happened between Roland and Vanessa, and spying on this couple through a hole in the wall only offers a vague sense of mutual gratification. What they really need to do is confront the elephant in their own room.

Pitt and Jolie always seem aware that a camera is on them, striking poses and blurting their dialogue in ways that never feel remotely honest. Their simplistic reactions to whatever happened in their past (Roland's booze and Vanessa's rage) are never properly explored, so the characters wind up being utterly superficial. And this leaves everything from their big mood swings to their moments of quiet tenderness feeling rather pointless. By contrast, the French actors invest an easy authenticity to their much smaller roles, grounding the setting with an earthiness that only makes Roland and Vanessa look even more alien.

That said, everything on-screen looks gorgeous. Cinematographer Christian Berger captures the sun-drenched location beautifully (it was shot in Malta), adding texture to the characters and situations. But it's difficult to escape the feeling that the storytelling is obvious and simplistic and the tortured complexity is just a show. There are still some big issues in here that make the audience think, and at least it doesn't take the predictable route through the material. But what could have been an involving exploration of intimacy and jealousy ends up being little more than a fashion show.

Rich Cline

Watch the trailer for By The Sea here:



By the Sea

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 20 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th December 2015

Production compaines: Plan B Entertainment, Jolie Pas

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Vanessa, as Roland, as Lea, as François, as Michel, as Patrice, Laurence Rickard as Clarisse, Sarah Naudi as Dancer, Anna Cachia as Georges the Waiter, George Camilleri as Pascal, as Dress Shop Saleswoman, Marika Green as Fisherman, Aldo Buontempo as Maitre D', Philippe Martinet as Hotel Receptionist, Francis Xuereb as Older Couple, Malcolm Beethans as Older Couple, Kathleen Beethans as Fancy Couple at Café, Bjorn Kubin as Fancy Couple at Café, Penny Dix as Café Cat, Arcadia Vodka as Child in Hotel

Also starring:

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