The Sea Inside (2004) / Drama
aka Mar Adentro

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexuality and some language
Running Time: 125 min.

Cast: Javier Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Clara Segura, Joan Dalmau, Alberto Jimenez, Tamar Novas, Francesc Garrido, Jose Maria Pou
Director: Alejandro Amenabar
Screenplay: Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil
Review published May 24, 2005

Compelling and absorbing from start to finish, Alejandro Amenabar (The Others, Open Your Eyes) delivers another terrific film to add to a small but very impressive body of work.  The Sea Inside tells the true story of Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem, Collateral), who spent almost thirty years as a quadriplegic after a diving accident left him with no feeling or movement below his neck.  For years, Ramon has been in a one-man campaign for his right to die, which has upset the family that has cared for him greatly, and which the religious factions in Spain have mounted up opposition to, making it difficult to pass legislation in Ramon's favor. 

Although it would be easy to classify The Sea Inside as a depressing tale of a miserable man with nothing left to live for, it is actually quite the opposite.  Ramon's tale is uplifting and inspiring, and even though he doesn't feel like a complete human without the ability to move from his bed, what he is able to accomplish with so little around him rivals what many of us can do with our full bodies at our disposal.  However, he once had everything to look forward to, and in the fleet of an instant, it was all taken away, and the thought of this has grown into sadness, anguish, and a wish to depart his life with his dignity intact, and finally free the family that have slaved away to accommodate his every need. 

Everyone around him that cares wants him to go on living.  In particular, there is Rosa, who has been unlucky in love, but who finally sees in Ramon a man who won't (and can't) run away from her and her family.  There is also another woman who might vie for Ramon's affections, Julia, the attractive lawyer brought in to try to assist him in seeking the release from life that he so very much desires.

Although much of the film takes place within the confines of Ramon's room, there are moments where the drama does shift to other parts of the house, and later, into the courtrooms.  Also, Amenabar breaks up the film by showing how Ramon can break free from the confines of his body with daydream sequences where he fan fly far away and be wherever he wishes, with full use of his arms and legs, and anything else his imagination allows him to engage in.

A truly memorable and genuinely affecting motion picture, The Sea Inside would garner many accolades, including winning the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.   Some would argue that it should have also been nominated for Best Picture, although it may have seen some heavy vote splits from the very similarly themed Million Dollar Baby, which deals with the same issues of one's right to end their life when they no longer have anything to live for.  Thanks to Bardem's brilliant performance and Amenabar's near perfect direction, what might have been a thoroughly depressing film about a touchy subject ends up being a triumph, with enough food for thought to keep one thinking about what they've seen long after the credits roll.  One of the best films of 2004.

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo