Consider the effort it takes to produce a movie. To develop a concept, write a script, acquire funding, arrange dates, source locations, hire staff, secure rights, shoot material, edit footage, organise releases. That's a lot of effort over a lot of time. Now consider what that movie becomes when that effort is directed inward - all of the above steps of development devoted to an exploration and an expression of self. That's a lot of exploration and a lot of expression, in modes that are overt and covert, obvious and surprising, thematic and stylistic. By the Sea looks and looks, whether searching or sure, always seeing something, sometimes knowing nothing. This is perception: that of the filmmaker, of the camera's lens, of the audience. That is derived from Angelina Jolie's own life: of what we have seen of her, and of what she has seen of herself. Looking for a purpose and failing to find one, looking for the truth and tripping over it, looking for validation and winding up corrupted. It is transparent and opaque, and often transparent in its opacity, to the extent that its true opacity goes unnoticed. Jolie lays herself truly bare, not only in what she does express but in what she doesn't, inferences drawn from implications left crucially unmentioned; she exposes secrets that she is comfortable to reveal, and those that she is not, burying them beneath layer after exquisite layer of premium patisserie. Eat away at it, and the dark fears and cruel truths of her life - whether as we have seen it or as she sees it herself - tumble out. By the Sea is undeniably gauche, but it's the genuine expression of genuine anguish, and since when has anguish ever been subtle? Gauche it may be, but it's equally rich, and tremendously perceptive.