Tag Archives: Relationship

Review: By the Sea

by-the-sea-poster
via IMP Awards

By the Sea (2015)

R / 122 min.

Drama / Romance

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent

Director: Angelia Jolie


A French seaside resort sounds like the perfect locale for a romantic getaway weekend.  The fresh and salty breeze kisses your face as the sound of the waves crashing upon the beach fills your ears.  It is relaxing just thinking about it.  It sounds a lot better than this damp and foggy day I am currently experiencing.  Unfortunately, By the Sea, directed and written by actress-turned-director Angelina Jolie is anything but romantic…or a good movie for that matter.

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via The AV Club

The film, starring Angelina and her ex-real-life husband Brad Pitt, is a reflective piece on the subject of grief and love.  It is a deeply personal film about a couple, Vanessa and Roland (played by Jolie and Pitt), at a crossroads in the relationship who decide to go to a French seaside resort to perhaps sort things out in their marriage.  Instead, things seem to take a turn for the weird when they begin to meet some new friends around the town, two of which happen to be a newly-wed couple next door.

What brought me to this movie was the obvious draw of a voyeuristic look into the real-life relationship of Jolie and Pitt.  It was no secret that their marriage was hanging on a thread and that things were not all roses and dandelions between the two of them.  By the Sea was advertised as a personal art-house piece about a couple going through a rough patch.  It does not take a genius to connect the dots and theorize that perhaps the movie is a story about the director’s marriage.  Despite these theories, we get nothing of the sort.  Instead, we get a rather odd voyeuristic look into the sex life of the couple next door thanks to a hidden peep hole that offers Vanessa a view into their life.  Feelings of jealousy and lust begin to creep into her thoughts as she becomes addicted to the peep hole while Roland is off getting drunk at the resort’s bar.

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via Rolling Stone

This fascination with the couple next door is certainly something I was not expecting, but it is just too bad the overall plot is boring.  The film never managed to grab me like I thought it initially would.  It does not help that 75% of the movie is one big moan fest full of self-loathing and blank stares.  Everyone just lies around drinking and acting all mopey-dopey.  The performances feel lifeless, especially from Jolie and Pitt.  The dynamic and chemistry between their two characters is the backbone that the movie relies upon but the two never feel invested in their characters.  For a movie so personal it was surprising how detached the two felt from it.

There is one department of the movie that deserves praise and that is its cinematography.  Angelina Jolie is a great director who looks to have a future ahead of her that does not solely include acting.  She takes a simplistic angle on the film, with some great minimalist shots and a lot of silence.  It was at least pleasant to look at, despite the boring travesty that was taking place in the resort.  There was also a nice orchestrated musical score that added to the movie as well.

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via Collider

Things only get worse as the movie creeps towards its conclusion, but I never found it in myself to care.  By the Sea must have been tough to create given the circumstances of what Jolie and Pitt were going through at the time, so I have to commend them for attempting to put something like this out there in the wild.  If you came into this movie looking for an irresistible look into the two’s love life however, then you are going to be madly disappointed.  It is quite possible you might self-loath yourself just as much as the characters in the movie.

by-the-sea-score

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Review: Emily Is Away

emily is away cover

Emily Is Away (2015)

PC / Not Rated

Adventure

Publisher: Kyle Seeley

Developer: Kyle Seeley


Most people this day and age at some point have probably found themselves in front of a computer with an instant messenger client open.  Before the age of texting and social media, there was a time where AOL Instant Messaging was one of the few ways to get in touch with high school friends or distant relatives savvy enough to use a computer.  Another familiar experience, one that most of us have probably been through, is the complicated high school crush relationship.  With a high school crush, you’re always teetering on the line between a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship or the friend zone, where anything you say could tip it all off-balance.

When you pair instant messaging of the early 2000s with conversations with a high school crush, you probably get a relatable experience, which is where Emily Is Away succeeds in its mission.  Emily Is Away is a small PC indie game designed by Kyle Seeley.  The game encapsulates the complicated and sometimes nerve-wracking nature of talking with a crush perfectly, using a deeply nostalgic Windows XP aesthetic as a wrapper.  It immediately transported me back to a time were punk-pop bands were the norm and Harry Potter movies were new and all the rage.

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The beginning of the game lets you pick a screen name, a name that you will use to talk and communicate with the game’s titular character Emily, who goes by “emerly35” online.  The short narrative journey takes place over five years, starting in your senior year of high school and ending with your senior year of college.  Over this time, you speak with Emily about a wide range of things ranging from music to parties, until you eventually get into some deeper topics like your relationship with her and other love interests in your life.  What you say directly affects your relationship with Emily in more ways than one.  Do you or do you not want to be with Emily?  Oh, she’s talking to another boy?  What’s his name?  Why would you want to be with him?  Do you really think he’s the right one for you?

High school crushes are complicated.  A lot of the times they are talking with other people and feeling of jealousy can rise from the dirt.  You don’t want to tell them what to do with their lives, but you desperately want to be with them as well.  The game captures these feelings perfectly.  It also hits home in a lot of different ways, thanks to the relatability of the scenario. Whether you like it or not, your relationship changes with Emily as you go through college and no matter what you say, the distance between you and her continues to grow.  The ending is pretty depressing, but it’s extremely powerful in execution.  It’s an outcome that you probably dread from the start, but it’s a part of life.  The game has different endings, but I’m unsure if you are able to get a “positive” outcome, no matter how hard you try, which is kind of unfortunate.  However, I think the negative endings work a lot better for the story and they give it more impact.

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All the other details surrounding your conversations with Emily are some of the best parts of the game.  Like I mentioned before, the game’s interface lovingly recreates the Window XP desktop. You have your messaging application that you use to talk with Emily as well as your “buddy list” that has all of your friends.  Before every conversation, I found myself reading through my friends’ user bios which usually consisted of song lyrics or other meaningful quotes.  Just like your relationship with Emily, your friends have changed too, and depending on the choices you make with Emily, you have the power to bring them closer or drive them away.  It’s a neat little aspect of the game that only garnishes the meat of the experience.  A part of me wishes that I could have talked with these other friends as well, but that would have only distracted me from the main conversation at hand.  It could have worked, but it would have been tougher to implement in a meaningful and enriching way.

Even details like your “buddy icon” that you select before every year (five years divide into five chapters or conversations) did a great job at putting you in the early 2000s.  The instant I saw the Harry Potter and Eminem logos that you could choose for your icon, I knew I was going to like this game.  There’s also plenty of hidden surprises that unlock different Easter eggs throughout the course of the game as well.  If you set your username to be “vaultdweller” for instance, you might get a special icon available for use.  Some usernames also trigger conversational cues that can add some variety to the conversations as well.  Setting your username to be the exact same as Brad’s (the boy Emily is talking to) can lead to a funny and confusing situation.  (Try it.)

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The short experience that Emily Is Away provides is extremely powerful and one of the most relatable games I have ever played.  Not only does it provide a deeply engrossing, and ultimately sad, story but it also hits all of the nostalgic beats of the early 2000s.  The game is essentially a friend zone simulator and it succeeds in every aspect of its execution.  I would have liked the game to be a bit longer so I could spend more time with the character of Emily, but I think the game is alright where it stands.  If you love sweating over what to say to your crush, then this game is most definitely for you.

emily is away score

Also available on Mac and Linux.