Review: The subtle & unexpected ‘By the Sea’ from Writer/Director Angelina Jolie Pitt

By the Sea poster

Let’s watch the trailer:

There are three different ways I can describe By the Sea, written, directed and starring Angelina Jolie Pitt opposite husband, Brad Pitt.

  1. Roland and Vanessa (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt) are a seasoned couple beginning a vacation at a beautiful hotel in the south of France in the 1970s. When a young newlywed couple moves in next door, it brings out a new side of Roland and Vanessa that might just save their marriage.
  2. Three sets of couples, in different stages of life, interact while on holiday in 1970s.
  3. A portrait of a couple trying to avoid the painful memories of their past.

Full disclosure, I love dramas. The American, with George Clooney, is one of my recent favorites. It’s slow and purposeful with beautiful cinematography. Not unlike By the Sea, that reveals slowly with a bit of mystery centering around Vanessa.

Jolie Pitt’s performance as Vanessa is cold, rigid and stoic. One of the only problems I had with the story is why the young, full of life, Lea (Melanie Laurent) would seek out her friendship.

What I particularly enjoyed was the lack of formula, leaving it completely without prediction, yet all actions were plausible. Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote and directed the film before she started directing, so she had no intention of starring in it or for it to be a commercial film. Most of the scenes take place in the hotel, and you really get the sense that there is a beautiful world waiting just outside. While many will be drawn to it because of the couple, this is not the picture of a perfect marriage.

Brad Pitt‘s character, Roland, is full of despair over being with the woman he loves, but not actually BEING with her. He has such painfully anguished expressions and empathy is clearly with him. The feeling of despair reminds me of another really good movie, Sunlight, with Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon which was oddly more uplifting.

The pace was very smooth and at 2 hours, it keeps you guessing so much that you forget the time. I very much enjoyed the journey and wouldn’t have a second thought to revisit. It’s in select theaters now and more to come.

By the Sea

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa - Managing Editor / Podcast Producer - Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed. Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa