As the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt marriage comes to an end, one of their films is receiving renewed attention — the 2015 release By The Sea.
Written and directed by Jolie-Pitt (that's how Angelina was credited on the film's promotional material), By The Sea was about an American couple in the 1960s, struggling to make their marriage work. Vanessa and Roland (the characters played by Jolie and Pitt in the film) take off for a vacation to a French seaside town; they hope the time off will help repair the cracks in their marriage.
Their own jaded, fading relationship is highlighted even more by the arrival of a young French couple at the hotel — so obviously passionate and in love.
By The Sea was praised for its attention to detail; everything else was panned by critics.
The Atlantic's Sophie Gilbert called it "not so much a film as a 132-minute perfume ad; a two-hour-plus Vogue shoot in stereo".
"An unabashed vanity project that struggles to turn its own beautiful inertia into a virtue," wrote Justin Chang for Variety.
Peter Travers, in Rolling Stone, was more direct: "'I smell fish,' Nessa says, sniffing. Nah. What stinks is the movie."
There was even one reviewer who deemed it simply "boring as f**k".
In the light of news that Jolie has filed for divorce from Pitt, citing irreconcilable differences, By The Sea's depiction of a 14-year marriage in trouble is being looked at less as cinema and more as a mirroring of real life.
In its narrative, By The Sea now seems prescient.
Even more so, are the interviews that Jolie gave at the time: there's this one in The Telegraph that was headlined 'Brad and I drive each other mad'.
Lest the film be thought of as autobiographical, however, the Girl, Interrupted star clarified:
"Brad and I have our issues, but if the characters were even remotely close to our problems we couldn’t have made the film. To be clear: we have fights and problems like any other couple. We have days when we drive each other absolutely mad and want space, but the problems in the movie aren’t our specific problems."
After their separation, By The Sea has been examined with a magnifying glass.
There has also been another film — the only other time the two Hollywood stars starred opposite each other — that has received scrutiny: the decidedly non-arthouse Mr and Mrs Smith (2005).
In that action-adventure, Jolie and Pitt played (once again) a married couple afflicted with boredom and seeking counselling. Their relationship revives when they discover that they're both highly skilled assassins and need to unite against a common enemy who wants them eliminated.
Mr and Mrs Smith was the film that marked the start of the Jolie-Pitt romance (one that was marred by rumours that Brad was unfaithful to his then-wife Jennifer Aniston), the beginning of the global phenomenon known as 'Brangelina'.
Just as its lead pair got together off screen, the Smiths too were shown to reunite by the end of the movie, with their marriage rock solid, and far more exciting than earlier.
By The Sea also sees a reconciliation, of a somewhat fragile sort, between Vanessa and Roland.
Unfortunately, as the statements issued by both Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have shown, this once, life will not be imitating art — or will follow it only to a certain degree.
And when the dust has settled on news of their divorce, all that will be left in the public space is this "lavish portrait of a marriage in crisis".