By the Sea

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
By the Sea Movie Poster Image
Interesting but flawed film about marriage is very mature.
  • R
  • 2015
  • 132 minutes

Parents say

age 5+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Marriages can be messy and unforgiving, but they can also withstand the most grueling losses and challenges if spouses remember to turn to each other for support, encouragement, and real talk. Other subjects dealt with include infidelity and infertility.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Roland and Vanessa aren't at their best here, but they're trying to make sense of things -- especially Roland. 

Violence

A couple fights, sometimes loudly. In one scene, the man grabs his wife's hand and uses it to slap his face, goading her to hit him repeatedly. Other scenes show her kicking him and him handling her face roughly.

Sex

A couple is shown in the middle of sex; her pubic area is shown (albeit in shadow). Naked male and female bottoms are shown, sometimes during sex. Other scenes show bare breasts, both while bathing and during sex. 

Language

Frequent use of everything from "f--k" and "s--t" to "damn" and "a--hole." Some scenes also include swearing in French. 

Consumerism

Some brands/logos are seen, including YSL, Louis Vuitton, and Vogue

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character drinks day and night (a dependence on alcohol is suggested). Another character pops pills.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that By the Sea is a searing, painful 1970s-set drama about a married couple (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt) on the brink of either divorce, self-destruction, or a deeper marital understanding -- or perhaps all of the above. Its subject matter -- marriage, infidelity, and fertility -- is quite heavy and not likely to resonate with younger viewers. Just as well, since one character drinks day and night, and another relies on prescription meds to get through the day. Plus, sexual situations and nudity abound (mainly bare breasts and backsides, though a woman's pubic area is somewhat on display in one scene, albeit shadowed). There's also some swearing, including "s--t" and "f--k."

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byGramoriburg December 1, 2015

First Independant Film That Puts Tears Into Your Eyes

I got into that cinema thinking that it was just gonna be 'meh'. But I walked out inspired by the acting and performance and moved by the story. The a... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a 1970s French fishing town, an American couple -- writer Roland (Brad Pitt) and his wife, Vanessa (Angelina Jolie), a former dancer -- arrive for a seaside sojourn at the local hotel. He's trying to write his next book; she's trying to forget some unnamed sorrow. All she wants to do is lie around, forlorn and mournful, and gaze at the water. Roland sets himself up at the local eatery, but all he seems to be able to do is drink and worry about Vanessa. And then she discovers a hole in the wall through which she can observe their next-door neighbors -- newlyweds without a care in the world who are trying to get pregnant. Vanessa's observations unleash emotions within her that she first tries to tamp down, but they threaten to take over both her and her marriage to Roland, who appears to be at the end of his rope, too. 

Is it any good?

Languorous, flawed, and moody, BY THE SEA is beautiful to watch and well-acted, with Pitt and Jolie turning in performances that push against their usual types. The ideas the film submits about marriage -- that sometimes you have to endure it to its breaking point so it can metamorphose into something stronger and possibly better -- are interesting and complex, but it's somewhat hobbled by dialogue (from a script written by Jolie) that's stiff and constrained and doesn't allow the film to breathe.

It's also much too long -- editor, where were you? -- with at least one too many scenes of Jolie staring into nothingness and, to a lesser extent, Pitt doing the same. Nonetheless, it's a fine attempt at a circa-1970s aesthetic, one filled with both ennui and anguish.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what By the Sea is saying about marriage and having children. Are its messages relevant today, or are they rooted in a 1970s way of thinking?

  • What can you learn from both Roland and Vanessa? Do they have a good marriage? Are they well-matched? What role does sex play in their relationship? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • How are drinking and drug use portrayed in the film? Are they glamorized? Are there realistic consequences?

Movie details

For kids who love drama and romance

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