By The Sea

Year: 2015
Production Co: Jolie Pas
Director: Angelina Jolie-Pitt
Producer: Angelina Jolie-Pitt/Brad Pitt
Writer: Angelina Jolie-Pitt
Cast: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie-Pitt, Mélanie Laurent

70s archetypes come together in this slow moving relationship drama from director Angelina Jolie. It stars Jolie and Brad Pitt as a married couple holidaying in a lush seaside village in the south of France trying to reclaim their lost mojo because of some tragedy that's only hinted at before finally being revealed.

Most critics (and audiences) hated the journey to the reveal, the movie bombing both theatrically and in reviews, but if you have a little bit of patience it's not as bad as you might have read. There's actually a strong precedent for domestic screen dramas where a beautiful location barely masks the crumbling emotional landscape beneath, and both Pitt and Jolie are great in their roles.

He's an Ernest Hemingway figure, a writer who's failing to find any inspiration and who goes down to the café in his fedora to smoke and drink all day and try not to think about what a failure his creative life has become.

She sits on the balcony in the lavish hotel above the village, looking over the azure sea, smoking just as much as her husband does and pouting all day until he comes back and they avoid talking about whatever horror they've faced that now threatens to destroy their marriage.

They find a strange common ground when a newly married couple moves in to the room next door, and – after finding a hole in the wall – they start spying on them constantly making love and going about their honeymoon.

It's a bit hard to know how to take the subplot about the spying hole in the wall. If it was so pivotal it feels like it should have had been used more and exerted some sort of resolution over the plot, but as it stands it's just some narrative curiosity that takes up a portion of the last half of the movie and then fades to nothing.

It's also not the only story motif that seems to mean something but isn't ever really explained. Another one is her noticing the fisherman who rows out of the rocky bay below every morning and returns every evening with his catch. Something about the inevitability of how boring existence can be, of wondering if you'll be trapped in the same position the rest of your life (especially in a bad marriage)?

But whatever the shortcomings in the story, Jolie has a good eye for both the period and the location. Don't expect huge revelations about the human condition – other than how miserable we can make each other – or much of a sense of pace and the languor might just wash over you like the surroundings on screen.

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