The key difference between French movies about beach resorts and American movies about beach resorts is that while both feature slumping townies and naked women, the French tend to be more silent and sorrowful. American beach pictures tend to use words like "party" and "wet," while Julie Lopes-Curval's slice-of-life Seaside has frustrated businessman Patrick Lizana asking his wealthy, widowed mother, "Is it that hard for you to hug me?" Lizana is far from the only disappointed character in Seaside, but he's one of only two to do something about the ennui. The other is Hélène Fillières, who works in the local rock-polishing factory and wears a faraway look that worries boyfriend Jonathan Zaccaï. When Lizana leaves his job as a factory manager and has a fling with Fillières, the two start making plans to leave town, abandoning Zaccaï and the rest of their pathetic longtime friends and neighbors, most notably Zaccaï's gambling-addicted retiree mother Bulle Ogier, whose slow gait and weathered countenance makes her a living embodiment of provincial misery. Lopes-Curval sets up Seaside as a heavily metaphorical study of how people and their environments interact in cycles, cueing on the tides, and the way summer ends, winter comes, and spring and summer return. In summer, Zaccaï works as a lifeguard, in winter he's a grocery clerk, and in spring he fishes a little. Tourists come and go, and pretty women like Fillières can only stop briefly on their way to work to stare at the models doing photo shoots on the beach. Lopes-Curval has a nice feel for the way this sort of conflict between restlessness and rootedness looks: She places her characters in landscapes of endless sand, or swaying grass, or mounds of unpolished gravel. The film's French title, Bord De Mer, has been translated literally as Seaside for its U.S. run, but Lopes-Curval has said that she'd rather the English title be Pebbles, in reference to those souvenir rocks that seem to be the town's only industry. The writer-director's overthinking on the matter is part of what's wrong with her debut film, which is sensitively shot, deeply felt, and dry as dirt. Seaside is too plotty to reside in the class of modern French mood-spinners from the likes of Claire Denis and Catherine Breillat, and too spare to belong to the neoclassicist school. Frankly, it needs a little American-style loutishness, to put the characters' drinking, desperation, and cuckolding in the context of a well-rounded, spirited life–the kind where the inability to have fun is a real shame, and not just a regional quirk.