“By the Sea” follows an American writer named Roland (Brad Pitt) and his wife, Vanessa (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 Lea (Melanie Laurent) and François (Melvil Poupaud), and village locals Michel (Niels Arestrup) and Patrice (Richard Bohringer), the couple begins to come to terms with unresolved issues in their own lives.
Prior to her feature-length directorial debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” and well before the beginning of photography on the World War II epic, “Unbroken,” Jolie Pitt wrote the screenplay for “By the Sea” as an exploration of grief and love.
Jolie Pitt reflects on her motivation: “I wrote `By the Sea’ thinking that I wanted to explore grief – whether it was how some people haven’t been exposed to it, some have let it settle in, and others have found ways to overcome it. Everybody in this film represents a different way of addressing that subject.”
That noted, initially she had no intention of portraying one of the leads. “I wrote it before I actually started directing films, so it wasn’t something I thought Brad and I would ever do together. When you write something, you’re often not even aware of why you write; it’s not until you’re caught up in it and have a reaction to it that you realize something bothers or affects you. I never assumed we’d actually make it or act in it, so I wrote with a degree of freedom.”
Jolie Pitt admits that she is fascinated by the fluidity of human existence, and that informed her script: “There is never just the tragedy or the humor of life or the pure joy of it. It has extremes. Relationships also have those extremes. You can be weeping on the floor, then 20 minutes later you can be laughing about something bizarre. This film is an extreme version of that. What’s relatable to people is that you can be absolutely, madly in love with the same person that you sometimes feel like killing. You can be giddy and silly, and also depressed and miserable with them. It’s the waves of a relationship. Things don’t perfectly make sense and wrap up, and that forces a freedom as a writer.”
As her focus as an artist turned toward work behind the camera, Jolie Pitt’s attention turned again to her screenplay. She reveals: “`By the Sea’ is not intended to be a commercial film. It was an opportunity for all of us to experiment and explore as artists and to create something delicate and special. There is a freedom in not making a commercial film. You can be bolder and experiment. It is emotionally more challenging and creative. As an artist, you want to be able to try things and sometimes avoid safe choices. We hope it will be enjoyed by people seeking a different, and perhaps more challenging, cinematic experience.”
Written, directed by and starring Academy Award® winner Angelina Jolie Pitt, Universal Pictures’ By the Sea will be shown exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas nationwide starting November 18 as distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.