Written by: Angelina Jolie Pitt
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Arestrup, Richard Bohringer
The drinking, the smoking, the difficult relationship and the seaside… If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was about to watch a film based on a Hemingway novel.
There were definite echoes of the novel, The Garden of Eden (published in 1986, posthumously). But without the amazing dialogue Hemingway is so famous for, By the Sea, was, listless.
Set in a French, beachside resort in the 1970’s, By the Sea, could have been a 1930’s film, bar the public nudity. And there are some soft porn moments here. But this film is definitely about the strained relationship between Vanessa (Angelina) and Roland (Brad).
It’s not an easy feat depicting depression. Watching a relationship disintegrate can be a boring business. I was left wondering how it was possible for people to have so much time to do nothing.
The silence of what is left unsaid between Vanessa and Roland is juxtaposed with the loud and happy love of Lea, (Mélanie Laurent – she was fantastic in Inglourious Basterds (2009), also cast alongside Brad Pitt) and François (Melvil Poupaud) on their honeymoon. Nothing highlights an unhappy couple more than a happy one.
The beauty of the setting, the turquoise water, the rocky landscape of the French seaside gives the audience a break from the sad-faced Vanessa. The old French café owner, Michel (Niels Aretrup) and hotel owner, Patrice (Richard Bohringer), gives warmth to the story. But the dominance of Vanessa makes it a somewhat boring film because the character is so incredibly lifeless.
There are moments of interesting dialogue, mostly between Roland and the other characters, and more thought into what was spoken, or perhaps framing the silence better would have made a more compelling film.
I didn’t mind being lulled by the silence because I don’t mind the feeling of listlessness. But you’ve got to be in the right mood for this one.