In an interview on The Today show, Jolie says By the Sea is inspired by her mother’s death in 2007.
We can’t say what the whole film is about, but a lot of the film was when I went to visit my mom in the hospital, when she found out she had cancer the first time. She was going to have her ovaries removed, [and] was very upset, feeling like…they’re taking out her parts that were female, and there was a woman down the hall who was wailing. I later found out it was a young woman who had not had children yet, and that put everything into perspective.
She also talks about how her mother urged her doctor to take her ovaries removed.
We had some of the same nurses, some of the same doctors. So, the doctor that did my ovary surgery was my mother’s doctor. And apparently my mother had said to her, ‘Promise me you will take Angie’s ovaries out.’ So when we kind of got together, we both had a big cry, and she said, ‘I promised your mother, and I’ve gotta do this.