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Laramie Movie Scope:
By the Sea

Slow-moving voyeuristic drama

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 10, 2016 -- All movies are exercises in voyeurism to some extent, but this one is explicit in its use of a peephole by an older couple to watch a younger couple's sexual frolics in the hotel room next door, and we get to see through the peephole, too, just for fun.

The older couple, played by real life Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie Pitt (who also directs this film) and Brad Pitt, try to reignite the spark in their lifeless marriage by watching a young couple in the next room. Angelina plays Vanessa. Roland, played by Brad Pitt, is a writer with a drinking problem and writer's block. The fire has gone out of their marriage. The young couple in the next room, Lea (Mélanie Laurent of “Now You See Me”) and François (Melvil Poupaud of “Laurence Anyways”) are on their honeymoon.

Vanessa and Roland have come to stay at what looks like a small coastal town in the south of France (it was filmed mostly in Mgarr ix-Xini, Malta). Roland is trying to write, but is not making any progress. Vanessa is bored and distant. Roland ends up drinking most of the day at a small nearby bar and restaurant where he makes friends with the kindly and wise old bartender, Michel (Niels Arestrup of “War Horse”).

Vanessa discovers a peephole in the wall of their room, and begins to spy on the young couple next door, Lea and François. Gradually, the two couples become friends. They go sailing together and also go dining together. Tension between Vanessa and Roland grows because of jealousy involving the young neighbors. Otherwise, the days pass slowly as Vanessa and Lea watch a fisherman row his boat out every morning and return every evening with few fish. Vanessa sometimes goes for walks on the many hillside paths around the small town.

This is one of those films where not much happens at a very slow pace, but eventually, Roland discovers the peephole and finds Vanessa looking through it. They both start watching the sexual antics together and the flame of their love is rekindled, but only after weathering a couple of crises related to the Big Secret that is weighing both of them down. There are some other nude scenes in the film as well.

When the Big Secret in Vanessa and Roland's past is finally revealed late in the film, it turns out to be not the kind of secret I was expecting. As a plot device, it seems to be a bit old fashioned. A lot of married people deal with this kind of problem every day, though not in such a scenic setting.

This film was written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt. The pace of the film is slow and the drama is pretty low key. The acting is good and the location cinematography, by Christian Berger is very good. There is some nice scenery in the film. It looks like a good vacation spot. The film? Not much to it. It rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)