By The Sea

Director: Angelina Jolie Pitt (2015)

With bickering, boozing and bust ups, life’s far from a beach in this exasperating period drama.

Written and directed by Jolie Pitt, it’s a moody, beautiful and sincere exploration of grief and love.

It’s also seriously dull and a far cry in tone and scale from her last directorial effort, the entertaining second world war action epic Unbroken (2014).

Jolie Pitt’s ambition to stretch her range is admirable and she’s crafted a well acted movie with a consistent tone.

She co-stars with real life hubby Brad Pitt as an unhappily married couple holidaying in the south of France.

But Jolie’s writing strands them both with unappealing characters and some awful dialogue.

Vanessa is a pathetic, self-pitying and pill popping former dancer.

Roland’s a hard drinking chain smoking novelist who seems to model himself on Ernest Hemingway.

They’re nursing an unspoken grief the eventual revelation of which is predictable and a very long time coming.

Their strained relationship changes when passionate young newlyweds check into the hotel suite next door.

They’re played by the beautiful and frequently naked pair of Melvil Poupaud and Melanie Laurent.

What  follows is sunbathing and shopping as well a lot of voyeurism and a little violence.

There’s a vague sense of By The Sea being a thriller without a crime or a heist without a con.

It could be set in any time or place and still achieve the lavish levels of dramatic inertia.

Malta stands in for Cote D’Azur and is suitably ravishing while the1973 setting allows for extremely glamorous clothes and cars.

Brad sports some fabulous looking flannel which is exactly what this film amounts to.


dir. Denis Villeneuve

Fantasy, identity and memory are twisted in this dark, expressionist, psychological thriller.

Sly and finely-crafted, it is based on José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double.

There’s minimal dialogue and a mournful soundtrack while the absence of clocks and times add to the alienating atmosphere and contribute to a memorable finale.

After a chance conversation, history professor Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is caught in an opaque web of intrigue, mistrust and betrayal.

Stuck in a failing relationship with the beautiful Mary (Mélanie Laurent) Adam is a listless drone with a life of dull routine, failing to inspire his bored students with his lectures on the political denial of self expression.

Only his mother, Isabella Rossellini is concerned or interested in him, leaving voice mails he doesn’t respond to.

One day a casual exchange with a nameless colleague leads Adam to watching a locally filmed movie ‘Where There’s a Will There’s a way’.

It’s a colourful comedy, disturbing the Enemy’s carefully established austere mood. In the background Adam sees a bellboy, played by an actor who looks uncannily similar to himself.

Intrigued, Adam discovers he’s called Anthony Saint Claire (Gyllenhaal again) and hunts down his other movie appearances.

Anthony is signed to a local agency and when Adam visits their offices he’s mistaken for his doppelganger, exploiting the mistake to pick up a parcel intended for the actor.

Behaving like an excited stalker, Adam instigates a meeting with Anthony which develops into a confrontation.

They’re physically identical but different in attitude, lifestyle and crucially in relationships. Anthony’s pregnant wife Helen (Sarah Gadon) is suspicious of her husband – with very good reason.

With deft deliberation Nicolas Bolduc’s camera follows as character stalks character, capturing scenes in unhealthy yellow register and bold shadows.

Architecture is an oppressive character while cars are cocoons for their faceless, voiceless commuters as they drive around the stark cityscape.

Gyllenhaal’s character is a memorable addition to the cinematic gallery of actors portraying identical characters on screen, joining luminaries such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, even Elvis has done it

Made in 2013 it’s released now to capitalise on the success of Gyllenhaal’s excellent movie Nightcrawler.

It’s hard to believe the same creative team of Gyllenhaal and Villeneuve who made this were also responsible for 2013’s preposterous  thriller, Prisoners.