Summary: Based on the profoundly moving true story that captured the world’s attention, “The Sea Inside” is about Spaniard Ramón Sampedro (Bardem), who fought a 30-year campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity. “The Sea Inside” is the story of Ramón’s relationships with two women: Julia (Rueda) a lawyer who supports his cause, and Rosa (Dueñas), a local woman who wants to convince him that life is worth living. Through the gift of his love, these two women are inspired to accomplish things they never previously thought possible. Despite his wish to die, Ramón taught everyone he encountered the meaning, value and preciousness of life. Though he could not move himself, he had an uncanny ability to move others. A truly joyous experience, “The Sea Inside” celebrates the nature of freedom and love, and the mystery and beauty of life.
Quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem) has spent the last thirty years of his life confined to a bed. Nothing would make him happier than to be able to die with dignity, but assisted suicide is still a crime in Spain. To help him win his case, he enlists the help of a beautiful disabled lawyer named Julia, but a single mother named Rosa prefers to spend her time trying to convince Ramon that life is worth living.
After a rather odd shift in direction with his spooky English language horror film The Others, Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenabar, who created the original Spanish film on which Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky was based, returns to his native language and land for a moving film that treads similar ground as his fellow countryman Pedro Almodovar.
Based on a true story, Sampedro’s situation is an interesting and unusual one. The writer injured himself while cliff diving in his late 20s and then spent the next thirty years trying to convince someone to help him commit suicide, something that has received him a lot of attention in the press. His battle with the system brings him in contact with two women who have their own agendas in trying to help him, creating a love triangle as one tries to help him get his wish while the other tries to change his mind. In honesty, neither of them really wants to see him die, and you’d think that having two women lavishing you with attention would give someone enough reason to want to live.
Needless to say, Sampedro is a difficult character. He has a bit of a smug know-it-all attitude that doesn’t allow you to immediately empathize or feel pity for his situation. You almost feel worse for his family who have to put up with his constant mood swings and negative attitude, as shown by his relationship with his impressionable nephew who obviously looks up to his uncle and gets treated the worst by him for it.
Still, there’s no denying that Javier Bardem’s portrayal of the cranky quadriplegic is highly memorable. Besides playing a character twenty years his senior, Bardem is able to carry the entire film using just his voice and facial expressions, something that very few actors would be able to pull off. It’s the only reason why a movie that essentially shows a man lying in bed for two hours is able to work. Like Almodovar’s best films, The Sea Inside has a solid dialogue-heavy script brought to life by a cast of mostly unknown actors like the wonderful Belen Ruedoa, and it keeps the film grounded in reality.
America has had its own share of Kevourkian cases, but the subject of euthanasia would not have been nearly as effective if set here, as the religious implications of Sampedro’s quest often outweigh the legal ones by being set in Spain. The movie’s most amusing scene involves a heated debate between Sampedro and a wheelchair-bound priest that tries to talk him out of his deathwish. At first, their discussion is relayed back and forth by an out-of-breath assistant, but it quickly turns into a hilarious yelling match between the two floors of the house.
As long as it takes to finally warm up to Sampedro’s salty attitude, not everyone will be satisfied by the choice Amenabar makes when the story can only go in one of two directions. Even after the film reaches its obvious climax, it then keeps going and going, leaving a confusing half hour full of the over-sentimentality that afflicts far too many European directors. The worst example of this is seen when Sampedro’s nephew chases after the van taking him to his new home.
While not everyone will appreciate what Amenabar has accomplished with his latest film, the parallels to Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions and Almodovar’s Talk to Her will appeal to fans of those poignant dramas, and Sampedro’s bedridden exploits are worth more than a few smiles and tears.
Official Website: TheSeaInside.com
Movie Coming Soon!
Release Date: December 17, 2004 (limited)
Director: Alejandro AmenábarPlot