THE Pitts team up for the first time since Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) to again explore a marriage break down, this time without the gunfire and fist fights.
Struggling writer Roland (Pitt) and his distant, depressed former dancer wife Vanessa (Jolie Pitt) retreat to a tiny, secluded seaside town in France so he can write and they can rekindle the flame.
The gorgeous location does little to inspire either of them as he sits alone getting drunk in the hotel café while she sits in the room and broods.
Young newlywed couple François (Melvil Poupaud) and Lea (Laurent) next door inspire a spark, as Vanessa and Roland watch their neighbours eat, drink and make love through a hole in the wall.
Roland thinks this is what the couple need to rediscover their intimacy but Vanessa’s motivation for watching is murky.
There are some interesting underdeveloped themes of voyeurism, relationship rivalry, depression and suppressed sexuality but Jolie Pitt appears too preoccupied with lingering on the same imagery to develop them further.
At times By The Sea is a tough slog, like being stuck in a room with a skipping record, as the characters repeat behaviour, glances and angst until the cause of Vanessa’s agony is blurted out at the end like the punch line of a joke and without any time for reflection.
While her script and direction may not yet be refined, Jolie Pitt deserves kudos for creating herself a complex and deeply unlikeable character.
By The Sea has some genuinely interesting and fascinating moments, with stunning scenery, but the rewards are too few and far between.
By The Sea (MA)
Directed by: Angelina Jolie Pitt
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Mélanie Laurent
Review by Julian Wright
In cinemas now