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.

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.

Wedding Day

I wrote this story for one of my creative writing classes at U of T. The assignment was to write a story that must be told, that the world should know about. I was inspired by the stories of many girls around the world, especially in India, whose futures are often dictated by society’s expectations. This is the start of young Kamini’s journey.

“Kamini, jaldhi karo!” her mother shouted from the room down the hall. Kamini’s little eyes shifted to the direction of her voice. Hurry up, her mother was saying, a phrase she had heard countless times before. She didn’t want to hurry. She wanted life to carry her to a better place. From the kitchen she heard the clatter of pots and pans, relatives bustling about, in preparation for the big day. She was getting married.

She stared at herself in the mirror. Her short black hair, dark skin, and skinny frame stared back. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She had just turned fourteen, and like all the girls in the village, she had feared that her parents may arrange for her to get married. Her fears were confirmed when her parents announced at dinner one evening that she would be marrying Sukhdev, a boy from a nearby village who was only a few years older than her. She had broken down in tears, but her pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears; it was as if she didn’t exist. Her parents and relatives ignored her and busied themselves with wedding arrangements.

Now it was the morning of the wedding, and she felt a knot in her stomach and emptiness inside. She didn’t know what to do. In the mirror, she saw her red wedding sari laid out neatly on the bed behind her. Any minute now, Lina Aunty would arrive to put it on her. And then she had an idea. If there was no sari, she couldn’t get married. Without thinking, Kamini grabbed the jewel-encrusted sari and went outside. The cooking fire was still burning from the morning, and there was no one around. Impulsively, she threw it in.

As she watched the flames consume the red silk, it dawned on her what she had done. Her parents would be furious, and most of all, humiliated. She had to leave before they discovered what she’d done. The only person who had shown outrage about this wedding was her aunt, her father’s younger sister who was an unmarried woman that had brought shame upon the family when she fell in love and moved to the big city.

Kamini ran back to her room and quickly grabbed her favourite doll, cotton dresses, and under-garments. She knew where her parents kept the stash of money in their bedroom. She quietly snuck into their room and found 2,000 rupees in a small box under the bed. She heard her mother’s footsteps approaching, and as the sounds grew closer, she quietly ducked through the window. She would go to Bombay and find her aunt. It was the only way.