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The Sea Inside (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: None listed

DO YOU believe in euthanasia? It's a question worth asking yourself given the difficult issues The Sea Inside confronts and compels the viewer to consider.

The film tells the true story of Ramon Sampedro, a Spanish sailor who ruptured his spine in a diving accident at the age of 26, who is subsequently forced to spend the next 30 years being cared for on his family's farm, in Galicia, while at the same time battling for the right to 'die with dignity'.

Yet while the subject matter may sound depressing and heavy-going, it is turned into a life-affirming and even uplifting experience by all concerned.

For while Sampedro's plight is certain to tug at the heart-strings, the movie refuses to pander to easy sentiment, exploring its subject matter from every angle, while also keeping things as light as they can be poignant.

As such, the film provides a tour-de-force for both its director, Alejandro Amenabar (who also wrote, edited and composed the score), and for its star, Javier Bardem, who effortlessly steals viewers' hearts.

His depiction of Sampedro is utterly beguiling, tapping into the sense of frustration and longing felt by his character, yet infusing it with humour.

As such, he can be both selfish and inspiring, not to mention heart-breaking in the extreme.

It is a performance conveyed solely by looks and words, with no grand gestures or visible histrionics, given that he is portraying a bed-ridden quadriplegic - yet his performance is all the more notable for this.

Strong, too, are the contributions from support players such as Belen Rueda, as a lawyer who takes on Sampedro's case, who has her own battle with illness to fight, and from Tamar Novas, as Sampredo's nephew, who continually struggles to understand the enormity of his uncle's decision.

Yet the whole cast is without fault and worthy of mention, from Alberto Gimenez and Celso Bugallo, as Sampedro's father and brother, who refuse to help him die, to Lola Duenas, as Rosa, a single mother of two who visits him to talk about her difficult life and who ends up falling in love with him.

Each character allows Amenabar to fully explore the themes of the movie - such as love, loss and the right to die with dignity - in a heartfelt yet non-judgemental way, thereby forcing the viewer to arrive at their own conclusions.

And as sad as the inevitable conclusion remains, Amenabar never allows the sentiment to become stifling, injecting proceedings with some much-needed humour and some wonderfully uplifting moments (including a sequence in which Sampedro imagines he has escaped from his bed and flies to the beach to be reunited with Rueda).

Such moments serve to underline Amenabar's huge talent as a director, while also providing further proof that Bardem is, without doubt, one of the very best actors of his generation.

The Sea Inside is sure to unlock a tidal wave of emotions.

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