Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt in a slog of a movie.
By the time, By the Sea -- a numbingly arty movie written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt -- begins its second hour, you may find yourself wishing that Jolie Pitt, who appears in the movie with real-life husband Brad Pitt, would descend from what appears to be an Olympus where the gods do nothing but suffer. Remote, aloof and in possession of some astonishing hats, Jolie Pitt's Vanessa is emotionally walled off from husband Roland (Pitt), a writer who -- as is usually the case in this sort of movie -- is blocked. Roland and Vanessa arrive at a French seaside resort to get away from it all, but wind up doing what characters inevitably do in overly arty movies: They bathe in their pain. Vanessa specializes in meaningful stares. Roland drinks heavily. Eventually, Vanessa and Roland wind up observing the sexual play of the honeymooners (Melanie Laurent and Melvil Poupaud) next door. Thanks to a hole in their hotel room wall, Roland and Vanessa become peeping Toms. The story hinges on a dark secret that Vanessa harbors and which you probably will guess within minutes. By the Sea has the exasperating feel of a movie that's trying so damn hard to be profound, it forgets to have something say.
Trying to escape the bonds of tradition.
Jolie Pitt may have overreached in By the Sea, but she deserves credit for executive producing Zeresenay Mehari's Difret, the story of Hirut (Tizita Hagere), a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl who's kidnapped and raped so that she can be forced into a marriage with her abductor. Hirut, who shoots her captor during an escape attempt, faces a murder charge in a male-dominated culture. Based on a true story, Defrit focuses on the efforts of a persistent attorney (Meron Getnet) to save young Hirut from the death penalty. The filmmaking is rudimentary, but Hirut's story stands as a powerful cry against deeply rooted traditions in which women too long have been subjugated.