The Sea Inside
(Mar Adentro)

javier bardem

The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro)
Made in: Spain
Language: Spanish
Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar
Starring: Javier Bardem, Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, Clara Segura, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Tamar Novas
Year: 2004

Synopsis: The film is based on the true life story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem), a quadriplegic living in northern Spain. Completely immobilized from the neck down, he is confined to a bed and is totally dependent on his older brother José (Celso Bugallo), sister in-law Manuela (Mabel Rivera), and nephew Javier (Tamar Novas) for his most basic needs.

Ramón wants to end his own life, to "die with dignity" as it were, and aiding him in his legal battles are Gené, a member of a private organization that takes up such causes. Gené finds an attorney named Julia (Belen Rueda) who agrees to represent him.

As the story progresses, we get a look at the charismatic Ramón's adventurous history, and his developing relationship with Julia, who herself is suffering from an incurable, degenerative disease.

He befriends Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a single mom who gains inspiration from his insight. He butts heads with his family, who have sacrificed everything to care for him, as well as a Catholic Priest who is also in the same situation.

And of course, the story touches upon all the ethical/humanitarian issues that come with assisted suicide. Should Ramón try to find something to live for, or should his wish to die be granted, seeing how there is no longer any quality of life for himself and those around him?

The Good: The Sea Inside makes a great effort to look at all sides of this issue, and never crams any kind of annoying activism down your throat. Director Alejandro Amenabar, in a departure from his usual style, creates a visually effective film and overall, does a good job tackling an extremely difficult topic.

The film makes it clear that the desire to die is Sampdero's sole decision, and by no means sends the message that all quadriplegics would be better off participating in euthanasia. Amenabar also seems very aware of the controversy that his film may generate, and treats the subject matter with great respect without compromising its emotional power.

Javier Bardem simply does a brilliant job as Sampedro, and Belen Rueda pulls in another solid performance as well.

The Bad: Cinematically, The Sea Inside tries to do a little too much. Indeed, Ramón Sampedro had a rich, full life and it's very hard to cram all the important bits into a two hour movie.

As a result, the subplots involving the characters played by Belen Rueda, Lola Dueñas, and Clara Segura get short-changed.

In the end, The Sea Inside clearly pushes a secular message and makes no bones about which side it takes legally with respect to assisted suicide.

Although we may agree with Ramón Sampedro's case and his reasons for wanting to die, the legal ramifications of decriminalizing euthanasia would go on long after the end credits finished rolling.

Most of my issues with this film don't have anything to do with Alejandro Amenabar's directing abilities or the strength of the film itself. Instead, I have problems with the story's overall message.

I'm not advocating one side over another here, but suppose the Spanish government (or any government) legalizes euthanasia for "humanitarian reasons," as in the case of quadriplegics. Would the law only include quadriplegics? How about periplegics?

Or someone who's just having a really bad day?

By legalizing assisted suicide, the government would have to also determine the meaning of suffering, quality of life, and define whether or not a family is providing enough love and support. Do you want a bunch of stuffy bureaucrats deciding all of that for the rest of us?

I certainly don't mean to minimize the unimaginable difficulties of life as a quadriplegic, and certainly won't argue against one who would rather die with dignity, like Sampedro. But thinking of the greater good, this so-called humanitarian measure will undoubtedly lead to even greater legal nightmares and more than a few wrongful deaths.

Who would like this movie: Although it's a really powerful, thought-provoking, and well-made film, The Sea Inside is very depressing.

I'd recommend this one to fans of foreign films who really admire actors such as Javier Bardem and Belen Rueda. But other than that, it's a difficult movie to get through and not one to watch if you just want some entertainment.

(3 stars out of 4, based on Amenabar's directing and Javier Bardem' s performance)

Review Written by: Joe Yang

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