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By the Sea
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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."
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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?
For kids who love drama and romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.