After stepping behind the camera to direct the films In the Land of Blood and Honey and Unbroken, Angelina Jolie Pitt decided not only to do so once again in the film By the Sea — but to star in front of the camera as well. The film marks the first time she has co-starred with her husband, Brad Pitt, since the duo’s 2005 hit Mr. & Mrs. Smith — the movie that famously brought them together.
In the 1970s, Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt) drive to a remote hotel on the French seaside. Despite being married for 14 years, they can barely stay in the same room for more than a few minutes without wanting to kill each other. Roland is a novelist who brings his fancy red typewriter along on the trip, but ends up spending more time talking about being a writer than actually writing very much.
Meanwhile, Vanessa used to be a dancer, but she spends most of the first half of the movie popping pills, in bed or out on the balcony, and side-eyeing her husband with contempt or giving him snappy responses. The only thing of interest that she finds is a hole in the wall of her hotel where part of the room adjacent to hers can be seen.
Vanessa is clearly not happy with her relationship, and while Roland appears to be the more optimistic of the two, he spends his nights drinking away his sorrows and ranting about his wife to the hotel owner, Michel (Niels Arestrup). We get a hint that there is a specific underlying issue behind their troubles, with Ronald asking Vanessa, “Are we ever gonna talk about it?”
While taking a walk — a rare occurance for Vanessa — she sees a young couple on their honeymoon, Lea (Mélanie Laurent) and Francois (Melvil Poupaud), who check into the hotel and end up in the room next to theirs. At first Vanessa shows little interest in them — as she does towards everything else, but then begins to watch them talk, as well as even have sex, through the hole she discovered in her wall. Roland also discovers the peephole, and they begin to watch the neighbors together, even while eating dinner, and use voyeurism as a way to regain the spark they once had in their relationship.
As they begin to come to terms with their unresolved issues, an event occurs that seriously damages both the relationship of Lea and Francois, and that of Vanessa and Roland. We also find out the true cause behind Vanessa’s contempt towards her husband and her own life. Will both couples be destroyed in this process?
Filmed in the small country of Malta, the film’s cinematography and views of the Mediterranean Sea are absolutely stunning. Although the story can be slow-moving at times, it draws you in with its drama and very personal feel.
The Blu-ray of the film comes with bonus features, including deleted scenes. What I found interesting in the bonus features was that Angelina’s shower scene in the movie was almost deleted. The actress was fearful to include it, as it was the first time she had gone topless onscreen since her mastectomy. In the end, she bravely decided to keep the scene in the movie.
We also get a glimpse into the making of the film, which was enjoyable to watch with its much more fun and relaxed vibe, compared to the movie itself. The final feature is called Gena Rowlands: An Inspiration, which shows us how the film’s voyeuristic angle was inspired by Gena Rowlands‘ character Marion in Another Woman, and how she uses a ventilation system to eavesdrop. By the Sea out is available on DVD and Blu-ray today.
Did you enjoy seeing Angelina and Brad co-starring on the big screen once again? Or was the movie too slow for your tastes? Click here to let us know your thoughts! ~ Natalia Makarski