Written, directed and produced by Academy Award® winner Angelina Jolie Pitt, By the Sea follows an American writer named Roland (Brad Pitt) and his wife, Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt), who arrive in a tranquil and picturesque seaside resort in 1970s France, their marriage in apparent crisis. As they spend time with fellow travelers, including young newlyweds and village locals, the couple begins to come to terms with unresolved issues in their own lives.
Angelina Jolie, now with Pitt added to her name, has certainly come a long way since 'Hackers' and 'Gia'. She has been in the spotlight for the better part of the last decade or more and has transitioned into a talent that writes, produces, directs, and stars in her own films. In 2014, Angelina did that with 'Unbroken', where it made a sizable profit. That cannot be said for her latest film 'By the Sea', which not only starred herself, but her real-life husband Brad Pitt as her on-screen husband. Jolie Pitt has stated that she made 'By the Sea' after her mother died, to whom she was very close. She was grieving at the time she wrote this screenplay, which translates on screen, as this story is about loss and grieving, and trying to get back into the light of life.
Jolie Pitt doesn't care what Hollywood executives say or what she should include in her film, particularly this one, because there isn't much to this movie. There are no explosions, action beats, or any witty dialogue. This is a somber film about a married couple of fourteen years, set in the 1970s, as they vacation and learn to fall in love again. Jolie Pitt certainly knows how to make a film visually beautiful, as each shot is well-framed and looks like it just came straight from the 1970s, which was an excellent time for cinema. All of the decade's details are there and are spot on. There just isn't much on the exterior of the film to muster up any real connection, and the film drags on very slowly. There are a ton of longing stares and glances as these two characters Roland and Vanessa (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt) venture to the exotic coast to work on themselves and work a little bit.
Roland is a successful writer who plans on writing his new book there, but he also has to get over the fact that he'd rather drink all day and night rather than write or work on his marriage. Vanessa seems distant from her husband and the two seem to not be getting along for the most part as they are in this beautiful setting, where love is in the air all around them. You can feel the tension for sure between the two characters. They soon meet a newly married couple, staying in the room next to them at the hotel resort, as Roland and Vanessa observe this new couple's fresh and active sex life and love through a peep hole in their room, which reminds the older couple of their earlier years.
They also meet a widower who takes each day as it comes, always remembering the good times he had with his wife and projecting his happy attitude to others. Things take a turn though when Vanessa interferes with the new young couple's life in an unsatisfactory fashion, but it might be what she and her husband need to move on and help with this mysterious grieving that she seems to be bringing everywhere with her. Again, this film does not move fast at all, but like I mentioned above, 'By the Sea' is not about the exterior layer, but about the interior layers of these characters and their process for grieving and loss.
It's easy to see why the film was a financial failure, even with two super-star leads such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt, due to the simple and slow pace of the film. That being said, this was an important film to Jolie, and it certainly shows that with its characters, and I applaud any filmmaker who steps out of the box and does a movie for them and not the masses. Brad Pitt and Angelina's performances are quite good, if not simple from afar, but upon closer inspection, they really nail these somber characters down. Brad of course is always funny when he's playing a drunk here. Is 'By the Sea' something that will be watched for many years to come? No, probably not, but it's one film that is technically stunning and has a few characters that you won't soon forget.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'By the Sea' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Universal that is Region A Locked that also includes an insert for a digital download copy. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
'By the Sea' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Again, the film is visually stunning and this video presentation from Universal is quite good. This was shot digitally, so you won't get that nostalgic gritty 1970s feel with the heavy grain or anything, but with all the detail surrounding the film in the time period, you'll get that feeling of that decade. The detail showcases all the imperfections of the exotic hotel within the furniture and wooden fixtures nicely.
The wardrobe and linens show the textures very well too, especially in the natural light, which is used throughout the film. The colors looks amazing, but there aren't a ton of primary colors that boast the spectrum. The browns and beiges really take over, but look great, which is encompassed by the amazing blue sea in the background. Black levels are deep and inky throughout and the skin tones are always natural. There was some minor video noise and aliasing, but it's nothing to write home about, leaving this video presentation with good marks.
This release comes with a simple and softened lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Again, there are no explosions or big action beats here, so there isn't anything to give your speaker system a good workout. That being said, the dialogue and score do their job well. This is mostly a front heavy mix, so don't expect the surrounds to give much action with the exception of some musical cues and some ambient noises of the coast here and there. The score always adds to the dramatic moments of the movie and the dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills.
Making 'By the Sea' (HD, 10 Mins.) - The cast and crew, including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt discuss the making of the film, the characters, the tone, the the themes, the 1970's time period, and some of the camera techniques. Decent little extra here.
Gena Rowlands: An Inspiration (HD, 5 Mins.) - Angelina Jolie Pitt discusses her love and admiration for actress Gena Rowlands, and her life and career has inspired her. She also talks about working on films with her husband.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 12 Mins.) - There are seven deleted scenes here, a lot of which are with Roland.
'By the Sea' isn't for everyone, but the characters that Angelina Jolie Pitt has created here are some you won't soon forget. The visuals are stunning and the camera work is excellent. It's just not a fast-paced or very engaging film, at least on the outside. It's the inner core of the film where the true message lies and Jolie Pitt has certainly captured that. The video and audio presentations are both simple and good, with just a couple of decent extras. Give it a rent if you're curious to see what Pitt and Jolie have been doing since 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith'.