Movie Review: By the Sea

In this dramatic and often dark film, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a troubled couple on the verge of destruction (funny how life often mirrors art isn’t it?). The movie was filmed on their honeymoon in 2015. Jolie plays Vanessa, a former dancer – now depressed and unable to commit herself to anything, and Pitt plays Roland, a struggling writer. They have been married for 14 years, and things have taken a turn for the worse.

The cinematography in this film is absolutely stunning. Set in a French beachtown, with gorgeous beaches and expansive views, the dark mood is in stark contrast with the beauty that surrounds them. Or is it? It is often said that beauty is most vivid during times of pain. The movie is filmed in Malta on the island of Goza, and if you’ve never been there before, this film will motivate you to add it to your bucket list.

There are many tension-filled scenes throughout the movie. It is almost cringe-worthy to witness how Vanessa berates her husband over his lack of success as a writer. She knows exactly how to get him where it hurts the most. And on his end, he is often very forceful and unsympathetic about her depression and growing distaste of him.

A big part of the movie is the relationship that Vanessa and Roland have with the young, happy couple that are staying in the room beside them. The couple are light-hearted and carefree, and ooze sexuality and playfulness. Vanessa discovers a peephole from her bedroom, and watches them in fascination, getting a glimpse of what her marriage could be, or maybe what it once was. Roland tries to stay away from the beautiful blonde, perhaps because he has been drawn to indiscretions in the past.

Throughout the movie you wonder, what on earth could have brought Vanessa and Roland to this state? We do eventually learn the cause of their pain which helps the viewer make sense of their level of hostility and downright hatred towards each other at times. It’s hard to tell if they even love each other at all – maybe they did once, but the love became twisted because of the hardships they experienced – rather than sticking together, they somehow turned against each other.

brad-and-angie-by-the-sea
Pitt & Jolie, ‘By the Sea’

In terms of the acting, Angelina and Brad are at their best. It always amazes me that super famous celebrities can still manage to convince us that they are other people, despite the fact that we know so much about them and they are so familiar.

SPOILER ALERT: One of my favourite scenes is when they finally make love, and he gets into the bathtub with her while she is taking a bath. There is nothing sexier than a man who isn’t afraid to get a little wet. ;-)

I wonder how Brad and Angelina would feel re-watching this movie now. Although I hear that actors often don’t watch their own work, so maybe they won’t ever watch this film. Although if I was an actor, I would probably watch my films over and over.

Overall I would give this movie a 6/10, which is pretty generous. The movie definitely makes you reflect on the tumultuous nature of relationships, and reflect on your own patterns. There are moments of depth and reflection, and of course there are those beautiful views.

When we die on the inside, the outside is left wandering dangerously by the sea.

It is by the sea, that sometimes a sense of peace arrives… and at other times, all it reveals are troubled waters beneath.

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