Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
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'
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.