By The Sea (2015) - Angelina Jolie
Angeline Jolie's By The Sea opens with a couple, Roland and Vanessa, driving among jagged cliffs, on their way to a seaside hotel in Malta. The rocky cliffs on their drive serve more than just beautifully scenery, being a symbolic representation of the couple's marriage, one that is full of sorrow and slowly deteriorating beyond the point of no return. On their arrival in Malta, Roland and Vanessa are barely engaged with one another. While Roland spends most of his time at the local cafe, drowning himself in booze as he attempts to find his voice again as a writer, Vanessa pops pills, trembling under the weight of her own misery. At its best, By The Sea is a mature examination of marriage, commitment, and emotion, displaying the self-destructive nature of trauma, the strain marriage can have on individuality, and the difficulties of breaking free of deep-rooted depression. The film reveals deep-seeded emotions and insights into this couples troubled relationships in nuanced ways, capturing the underlying pain and strife that lives beneath the surface of this seemingly pleasant relationship. At its worst, By The Sea feels like a really beautiful cologne commercial masquerading as a relationship drama, though fortunately for the viewer, By The Sea's good outweighs the bad by a significant margin. Without giving away too much details into why exactly Vanessa and Roland's relationship is so troubled, lets just say that By The Sea does a great job of telling a story gracefully, with much of what is said in By The Sea not being spoken but shown through subtle interactions between the couple and those they interact with. The couple is in a stagnant, passionless relationship, one that has deteriorated due to deep-seeded emotional trauma that I won't reveal in this review. Early on, By The Sea does a good job at capturing the underlying sorrow which is hidden under the veil of the couple's relationship, as Roland and Vanessa play nice, though the way they communicate akins more to one of polite strangers than a loving couple. The film is very much a mood piece at times, transporting the viewer into the psyche of these characters, individuals who have essentially given up, with By The Sea exhibiting an aura of entrapment which envelopes their relationship. When By The Sea is at its best, it delivers echos of Cassavetes' intimate examinations of emotions, with one of the film's stronger aspects being its ability to stay balanced between its two protagonists. By The Sea never shows any form of favoritism or biased towards either Vanessa or Roland, understanding that both characters have played a role in what has become a deeply-fractured marriage. While most of the film is very nuanced, the film does falter a bit when it comes to the interaction which unfolds between Vanessa and Roland and the young couple they meet staying next door to them, as By The Sea becomes a little too overstated for my liking in its statement about Vanessa and Roland's longing for their relationship to be good and healthy again. Vanessa and Roland grow attached to the happy couple, living vicariously through them, but the peep-hole aspect was a little too on-the-nose for me, though I'd be lying if I didn't admit how much I admired how the film captures the selfishness of Vanessa the young couple's happiness breeds. At its best, Angelina Jolie's By The Sea echoes aspects of Antonioni and Cassavetes, being a film thats good far outweights its bad, in exhibiting an engaging examination of a troubled couple.
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