VANESSA AND ROLAND are beautiful, artistic, and rich enough for an indefinite stay in the French Mediterranean, but By the Sea beckons you to feel sorry for them. The arthouse effort directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt—who also stars as Vanessa, alongside husband Brad as Roland—has flawless style. See: the YSL gradient sunglasses, the moldings in their hotel, the views, the car, and the clothes—she in layered silks, he in rakish chapeau.
As a style piece, Sea is a comely '60s/'70s Euro throwback, and Angelina and Brad pull it off—making it plausible that a woman too depressed to do anything but drink and cry in bed would have the bandwidth to apply false eyelashes. These two have the ennui something fierce, especially the missus. She's cold and bored, and begins spying on the young honeymooners in the next room, occasionally inducing flashbacks to obscure biological matter. Thus, "What's wrong with her?" becomes Sea's groundbreaking central mystery.
There's a brief period—after you've hated them for not enjoying their arrangement, and before you've realized their precious ennui secret was the most banal of your suspicions—when Vanessa and Roland become conspiratorial and weird, eating dinner next to the hole in the wall where they take turns spying and draining bottles of wine. This is Sea at its most substantial, turning its focus on the slippery intersection of vicariousness and misery.
But then Sea finally pays out the disappointingly ordinary reveal that it self-importantly used to bait your no-doubt-varying degree of interest, and it's time to beat this tourist town. It concludes with an almost comical haste, leading one to exit the theater with the feeling that you've basically wasted your time—but at least you've had the pleasure of doing so under attractive circumstances.