WRITTEN BY: Angelina Jolie Pitt
DIRECTED BY: Angelina Jolie Pitt
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Melvil Poupaud, Mélanie Laurent
RATING: 3 stars
Set in the 1970s, former dancer Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt) and her novelist husband Roland (Brad Pitt) travel to a quiet seaside spot in France to find inspiration to write and hopefully love each other again after 14 years of marriage and an unspoken tragedy between them. Instead, Roland spends much of his time drinking, while Vanessa stays in their room sulking and believing Roland wants to have sex with their younger hotel neighbour Lea (Melanie Laurent), who is on a honeymoon with her husband Francois (Melville Poupaud).
There is a lot to like about By The Sea, but there are also several flaws that overshadow much of the enjoyment. The cinematography is gorgeous and the costumes are elegant. Jolie Pitt and Pitt both portray their characters well and their chemistry is as strong as it was in Mr and Mrs Smith. Roland and Vanessa take passive aggression to the extreme and it gives the real life couple a chance to explore some intense emotions. Unfortunately, the pace of the film becomes tiresome and several scenes feel repetitive, such as the mildly creepy voyeuristic moments. There is little dialogue in large chunks of the film and while some parts look beautiful, others are pointless. The biggest problem though is the resolution. When we learn why the couple are so depressed it is an unsatisfactory conclusion and the character motivations are questionable. It is also a shame that Laurent and Poupaud's roles are so under-developed given the film runs for two hours and has plenty of time to explore the newlyweds in more detail.