Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Angelina Jolie) get away from home to spend some time in France. There Roland is supposed to write his new book and Vanessa, who is in a frail state, is supposed to have time and peace to recover. But things don’t really work out as planned. Roland is out drinking at the local bar all the time and Vanessa develops an obsession with the newlyweds (Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud) in the room next door.
By the Sea has its lengths, but other than that I really enjoyed it. The performances were great, it looked gorgeous and the story and characters were intriguing.
I never thought I’d ever speak highly of the looks of a film that is so incredibly beige as By the Sea is. Beige really isn’t a color to get excited about. But somehow in this film, it works and not only through the clever use of other colors throughout the film (particularly the red spots here and there). The beige itself becomes an expressive part of Roland and Vanessa’s relationship.
Oh, and that relationship! It’s an unusual relationship, not in the sense that it’s unrealistic or necessarily rare in real life, but that we barely get to see it in movies: there is a lot of intimacy between the two, they know each other so well and yet it is obvious that something went very wrong. And it’s Roland holding on with everything he’s got, although that doesn’t mean that he can do so at all times and is always perfect and loving. But Vanessa struggles to hold herself together, she can’t take care of the relationship as well most of the time.
Unfortunately when we find out the reason for her frailty – [SPOILER] she can’t conceive children [/SPOILER] – it did sour the film for me a bit. Because if that topic is ever handled in films at all, it’s usually by showing the woman experiencing it completely falling apart. A little more variety would be nice, just once having a woman shrugging it off. Or making her peace with it. Or…
Despite the film’s flaws and that it could have been a little shorter, the atmosphere in the film and the great performances by both Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, as well as Mélanie Laurent really make it definitely worth seeing.