The Sea Inside (2004) Poster

(I) (2004)

User Reviews

Review this title
140 Reviews
Sort by:
The core moral question
tpower-221 February 2005
Many more eloquent reviews than this have described the quite spectacular acting, casting and styling of this film. It appears that the only negative reviews focus on a perceived imbalance in the film's handling of the core moral question (euthanasia).

This film is, bar the final scenes, meticulous in stressing Ramon's belief that he's not making some grand point but merely that, for him, a life devoid of dignity is a life not worth living. We, as viewers, see an enormous amount of dignity in his life - we see family and friends and culture and, but for its physical limitations, a life fully lived. Central to the tragedy of this film is that there is really only one person who thinks that Ramon's life is not worth living - and that is him.

To watch this film and say that the only counter argument comes from the visit of a bumbling priest is a nonsense. The priest's visit is pure farce, a direct assault on the simplicity of the Spanish Catholic Church's response to the issue of euthanasia. However, the sister's parting words to the priest momentarily expose the powerful 'pro-life' sentiments quietly underpinning the entire film. We are constantly encouraged to see the hope and the beauty of a life lived with love. As the film progresses, we may gradually be encouraged to understand Ramon's reasoning but we are never reconciled to his decision.

I do not remember a film which moved me and provoked me as much as this.
126 out of 136 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Biopic That Asks Disturbing Questions
Ralph Michael Stein20 December 2004
Director and co-writer Alejandro Amenabar didn't make things easy for viewers of his taut, a bit overlong but very disturbing story, accurately based on a Spanish man's struggle to obtain assisted suicide. "Mar Adentro" ("The Sea Inside") is gripping and its impact far exceeds the time spent in the theater.

With the award-winning Canadian movie, "The Barbarian Invasions," folks got to see a family along with a coterie of devoted friends address the wish of a beloved albeit irascible man to end his life. In that movie, the center of attention suffered from progressive, incurable cancer and his descent into a terminal stage was fast. Emotional as the scenes were, death was inevitable - the question was how gentle could it be made through solicited intervention.

Ramon Sampedro (brilliantly played by Javier Bardem) is a different story. For well over two decades he's been a quadriplegic because of a diving accident. (Very sharp viewers may detect a terrible irony as to why he ended in that condition because of his improvident dive.) Once a world traveler and lover of beautiful women, he now lies trapped in an immobile body, his every need attended to by a truly devoted family who willingly surrender much of their privacy and time to sustain their beloved relation.

Rosa (Lola Duenas), a single mom of two small boys, enters the Sampedro household out of what might have been mere curiosity to learn about the paralyzed man's plight but she becomes both an emotionally supportive centerpiece for Ramon as well as an amusing but occasionally aggravating presence. A nice performance by Duenas.

The problem, of course, is that Sampedro isn't sick in the normal sense. He may well live for decades more with proper care. So his softly but persistently voiced desire to end his life with "dignity" creates a moral dilemma for friends and relatives who, not surprisingly, react from different ethical and religious perspectives.

Ramon is the poster quad of a group dedicated to changing Spain's laws concerning assisted suicide. "Death with Dignity" is their watchword. Gene (Clara Segura) is a sensitive activist who enlists the aid of pro bono publico counsel, Julia (Belen Rueda). Julia has her own health issues which carry an indefinite but catastrophic prognosis. Happily married to a devoted spouse, she bonds emotionally with her client.

What follows is an acutely sensitive interplay of values and emotions. Ramon lives with his brother and wife, their technophile teenage son, not the intellectual Ramon is, and his aged dad who can't stop grieving over his son's cataclysmic descent into absolute helplessness.

The moral and legal issues are played out through excellent acting and short vignettes including a courtroom scene in which formalism triumphs over any judicial interpretation that might take into account Ramon's feelings and views. It may be Spain but the issues are alive in most countries, including the U.S.

Especially amusing is a shouted, first floor to bedroom, debate between Ramon with a drop-in, lecturing Jesuit priest, also a quadriplegic but one whose hidebound dogma casually masks the absence of a soul.

Special kudos to Mabel Rivera, Ramon's sister-in-law-Manuela, for a wrenchingly authentic portrayal of a strong woman who holds the family together. And the same compliment fulsomely extends to Belen Rueda, Julia, who segues from objective advocate to close friend to a woman hurtling towards a dark fate.

The director imposes no value judgments allowing each character full range to express his or her feelings effectively and, at times, movingly. Like "Dead Man Walking," this movie can support any view about its deadly subject.

No one can stop a person from committing suicide if he/she is determined but the universal tragedy of the world's Ramons is that without assistance, life in a body in which only the heart beats and only the head can move is a sentence no court could pronounce on the most depraved of criminals.

The cinematography is well-matched to the story and the beautiful Galician scenes are an intended contrast to the limited views the once globe-trotting Ramon experiences from his special bed.

92 out of 100 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Life is a right, not an obligation
Keith F. Hatcher1 October 2004
If you go to the cinema to be entertained, amused, so as to fill up your time, do not go out of your way to watch this film.

If you go to the cinema to appreciate the depths of human-kind, the feelings of real people, to explore the characteriology of personalities, if you go to the cinema to absorb magnificent photography, be sure to put this film very high on your list, preferably in first place. The experience is profoundly rewarding, causing the intelligent viewer to make diverse reflexions over the meaning of life itself. With 'Mar Adentro' Alejandro Amenábar has surpassed the best he has done to date, and even redeemed certain deviations in his earlier films which smacked a little of being aimed at Hollywood. This is not the case with this visual poem put to music: Hollywood could never get anywhere near the effect of this tinglingly inspired human - and humane - story.

In no way should one interpret 'Mar Adentro' as an apologia for euthanasia; this story, based on the real life of the Galician fisherman Ramón Sampedro, is a cry from the bottom of the heart for life and love, a reaching out for human compassion, for understanding emotions. Sampedro was an articulate and intelligent man who after a diving accident off the rocks of the Galician coast as a young man was condemned to live the next 27 years in bed. 'Condenado a vivir' (2001) (TV) was the first version of this man's life on which I have already commented. However, Amenábar has succeeded remarkably at portraying this man, with his permanent enigmatic smile and witty sense of humour, in an equally articulate and intelligent way.

And Javier Bardem rose to the occasion, met the challenge head-on, complete with a Galician accent, producing an electrifying, compelling, enthralling performance, such that the actor and the fisherman become fused into being the same person on screen. Here, indeed, is an occasion to doff your cap, and softly mutter 'chapeau'. Bardem is driven on in his task by a magnificent cast, especially Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo (Los Lunes al Sol) (qv) and Clara Segura, Galician and Catalan accents taking prominent part.

Amenábar produces wonderful dialogues as these six rotate among themselves one-on-one, or in groups, with excellent chemistry, thus demonstrating that this young Chilean-born Spanish director is an artist who knows what he is at and how to get his results; his global concept of the film includes his own music, interspersed with pieces by Beethoven and Puccini on Sampedro's record-player.

Whilst viewing 'Mar Adentro', I found myself a couple of times comparing him and this film with Stephen Daldry and his masterpiece 'The Hours' (qv). I refer to the way in which the dialogues work with tenseness and passion and that careful sense of timing in each scene.

Javier Aguirresarobe's photography is superb as usual. As I have mentioned elsewhere on IMDb, he does not simply film the events and scenes - he captures even the feelings and the atmosphere of the moment, deftly catches that look in the eyes, light and shadows, such that his work behind the camera is at once another player in the story. A superb artist.

'Mar Adentro' is another landmark in the history of Spanish cinematography, among the best five or six works of art produced here in the last 25 years. This film places itself alongside such cinematographic art as 'El Sur' (qv), 'Los Santos Inocentes' (qv), 'El Abuelo' (qv), 'La Lengua de las Mariposas' (qv), 'Las Ratas' (qv), 'A Los Que Aman' (qv), and I think I must add 'Te Doy Mis Ojos' (qv).

Superbly orchestrated story of a real man, and those who loved him around his bedside: not to be missed.
188 out of 215 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Learning to Cry with a Smile
David Ferguson3 January 2005
Greetings again from the darkness. Director Alejandro Amenabar creates life against all odds in this based on a true story version of one man's struggle to control his destiny. The great Javier Bardem is fascinating to watch in his role as Ramon. His eyes and head movements leave little doubt what is going on in his mind. The dream and fantasy sequences are not overused so prove very effective in explaining why he wants what he wants. Rather than force us to answer the euthanasia question, the real question posed is , What is Love? At every turn we see people in love, looking for love or dying to be loved. The script is tight and keeps the film moving despite being filmed mostly in one room. The supporting cast is wonderful and we truly feel their pain and how each family member deals with Ramon's decision. This is a gem and deserves to be seen.
93 out of 108 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The right to die with dignity
jotix10014 February 2005
Alejandro Amenabar, the young and talented Spanish director, clearly shows us he is a serious film maker. Anyone doubting it, should have a look at his latest film "The Sea Inside". This is a movie that has been rewarded with numerous accolades, not only in Spain, but throughout the world, wherever this wonderful movie has been shown.

If you have not seen the film, perhaps you would like to stop here.

Ramon Sampedro is a man confined to bed. Being quadriplegic, he depends on the kindness of strangers for everything. Since his accident, Ramon only thinks in one thing alone: how to end his life! This is the moral issue at the center of the story, based on the real Ramon Sampedro's life.

Mr. Amenabar tells the story from Ramon's point of view. There is nothing here that is false or manipulative on his part. After all, he relies on facts that were well known in his country as this case became a "cause celebre" in favor of euthanasia, a theme that no one in that country wanted to deal with in Spain.

With its background of being a predominantly Roman Catholic country, Spain has evolved into one of the most democratic societies in Europe, a distinction that is more notable because of its long years dominated by a dictator. Yet, in spite of the advances in that society, the idea of taking one's own life, is something not clearly understood by the majority of its citizens, who still considered this subject as something that could not be done in their country.

Ramon Sampedro was a man that loved life. He lived an intense life as a young man when he enlisted as a sailor to discover the world. Having no money, this was the only way for him to see other lands, experience other cultures. Ramon's love affair with the sea, is something that people in Galicia learn to love from their childhood. Imagine how that same friendly sea is the one that takes away Ramon's life, as he knew it! In a second, Ramon goes from a vibrant young man into a vegetable!

Ramon's family is shattered by the experience. Suddenly they must leave everything aside to take care of him at home. His brother and sister-in-law, are stoic people that deal with the situation as a matter of fact. Their lives become something of an afterthought, because Ramon's life comes first. They tend to the sick man without protesting, or blaming Ramon for the sacrifices they must make to keep him alive.

That is why, in their minds, the Sampedros can't comprehend Ramon's wishes to end it all. Haven't they given up having a normal life to take care of him? This moral issue weighs heavily on these uncomplicated and simple people because in their minds, they are doing what came naturally.

The second subject of the movie is the legal issue of the euthanasia and the well meaning people that suddenly enter Ramon's life in their desire to help him put an end to his suffering. There's Julia, the lawyer who is herself handicapped and suffers from a rare malady. There is Rosa, the fish cannery worker who becomes infatuated with Ramon.

Javier Bardem, makes a brilliant Ramon Sampedro. His transformation is total. We don't doubt from one moment he is no one else but the paralyzed man on that bed. Mr. Bardem can only use his face in order to convey all the emotions trapped inside Ramon. Mr. Bardem makes this man real. This is perhaps Javier Bardem's best role of his career. He surpasses his own award winning performance as Reynaldo Arenas, the late Cuban poet he portrayed in "Before Night Falls".

In the supporting roles, Belen Rueda, makes an impressive appearance as Julia, the woman fighting her own physical problems. Lola Duenas is also effective as Rosa, the kindred soul that loves Ramon deeply. Celso Bugallo, as Ramon's brother shows a man at a crossroads of his own life. Mabel Rivera makes a compassionate Manuela, the sister-in-law that never asks anything of life, but tends to Ramon without questioning why she has to do it, at all.

Mr. Amenabar also has composed the haunting music score for the film. He is a man that never cease to surprise. One wonders what his next project will be, but one wishes him success in whatever he might decide to do in the future.
41 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Superb cast, great score, excellent movie...not perfect though
gippiec9 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Mar Adentro (Out at Sea would be the better translation) last Sunday. The movie is powerful and moving, as was the true story of Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic from a coastal village in Galicia (Northwest Spain). Sampedro lived for 27 years lying in a bed, unable to move but his neck and face, needing help and attention with everyday needs, and fighting a battle to obtain legal permission for somebody to assist him in his suicide. A sensitive and articulate man, Sampedro wrote (with his mouth), gave television interviews, and captivated the Spanish public with his good humour, his wit, his intelligence, and his dramatic and well-reasoned determination to be able to control his life and death. The legal battle was -predictably- lost, but Sampedro died anyway. It is no small feat that this real-life story remains as poignant on screen as it was in reality. Amenábar has intelligently stayed close to the real characters and their surroundings. Beautiful landscapes, an outstanding score (most of it by Amenábar himself, played and arranged by Carlos Núñez). The cast is prodigious overall. Bardem's performance as Sampedro is superb, even in points such as the slight Galician accent, convincing and never overdone. Few actors have so dominated a movie despite the limitations inherent in playing a quadriplegic. Mabel Rivera outshines the rest of the supporting cast as Sampedro's unselfish, undemanding, loving sister-in-law. Belén Rueda gives a competent performance as Julia, one of Sampedro's pro bono lawyers who suffers from a degenerative disease herself and is considering euthanasia. But her character is a weak presence in the movie, and only makes sense towards the end, when her disease has deprived her of the ability to choose. Most troublesome is the unconvincing love story between Julia and Sampedro; this may have been an attempt -in my view failed and superfluous- to underline how seductive a character Sampedro was; Bardem should have been trusted on that without this superficial prop. The multiplicity of characters combined with the slow-pace, majestic rhythm of the movie, punctuated by flights over breathtaking landscapes and the repetition of the scene of Sampedro's accident, are at odds with how many layers of complexity Amenábar can show in the time of a movie. And this may be the source of one of its few weaknesses: we are left with a slightly manichean view of things. For example, the only two characters not supportive of Sampedro's decision to die are slightly -or grossly- caricatured; one of them -a quadriplegic priest- provides one of the intensely comic moments of the film. This, in turn, is one of the many merits of the movie: faithful to Sampedro's personality, there is humour, there is wit, there are moments to laugh (Sampedro asks Julia for a cigarette; she reminds him that he does not smoke; he replies: I know, but what if it kills me?"). This is not a depressing movie, but a movie about the irreductible freedom of the human being, about dignity, about love, about self-sacrifice. And about our bonds to our fellow humans, how we create them, how we nourish them, how we abuse them, and how we must realize, painful as it may be, that we have no rights over other people's lives. Films like Mar Adentro remind you what movie-making is (or should be) about.
80 out of 102 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A wonderful team of artists make a masterpiece
guisperpor14 September 2004
This story about a man's 28 year struggle for a death that would liberate him from his already dead body becomes a masterpiece to be remembered,thanks to a team of artists in a state of grace. Directed, written,edited and scored by Alejandro Amenabar, it touches you from the very first images, and doesn't leave your eyes and your heart to rest until the last credits, thanks to Alejandro and a group of wonderful actors and actresses at their best. Bardem is an acting animal:One of those few comedians that can make a masterpiece from almost any character, the supporting actresses are great in their roles and the story is told with such a sensibility that one laughs and cries in the same minute, as we used to do with the great old masterpieces. The year's best film in all senses. 10 / 10
64 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sensitive Drama About a Polemic Theme
Claudio Carvalho27 January 2006
In Spain, the former sailor Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) has been quadriplegic for twenty-eight years and is fighting in court for his right of practicing euthanasia through an association that defends the freedom of choice and leaded by his friend Géne (Clara Segura). Ramón is introduced to the lawyer that is defending his cause, Julia (Belén Rueda), who has a degenerative fatal disease; and meets Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a lonely worker that has been abused by men. Their relationship changes the behavior and viewpoint of life of Rosa and Julia.

The Chilean Alejandro Amenábar is, in my opinion, one of the best contemporary directors. His filmography released in Brazil is composed by excellent and original movies: "Abre Los Ojos", "Tesis", "The Others" and "Mar Adentro". Javier Bardem is probably the best actor in Spain in the present days. Their association produced this sensitive drama about a very polemic theme, the right of committing euthanasia. This drama is never corny or depressive, since the screenplay uses humor as a relieve valve in the most dramatic situations. The performances of the cast are perfect, with characters having and defending different positions regarding this unpleasant theme. The dialogs and lines are very solid and intelligent. I noted in IMDb plot outline that this movie is based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro. Unfortunately, neither the movie nor the DVD gives this important information. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Mar Adentro" ("Sea Inside")
31 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Masterpiece on human dignity
anna-394 September 2004
This small, quiet, harmonious movie grows into a masterpiece on human dignity. It is intelligently structured, filled with meaningful little details and important side-plots. It tells a story of one man with great humanity without positioning itself politically, but fostering life as a precious right (not an obligation) and underlining individual's right to choose. It enjoys the richness of different landscapes (mental and physical) and languages (important detail). Outstanding acting by each of the actors, especially unbelievable Javier Bardem. His screen-presence has such a force that you forget that this is fiction. The movie has a wonderful rhythm, it is beautifully shot and outstandingly directed. It takes real talent to make a movie on such a difficult theme with understanding, humour and heart. Six stars out of five.
60 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Amenabar's mastery at the service of a True Story
aranalu6 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I had the privilege to watch Mar Adentro last Friday, and I am still shocked by its beauty, the powerful work of every single actor and actress and Amenabar's unbelievable ability to narrate the story of Ramón Sampedro, who was well known in Spain for asking for a legal euthanasia, lost the court cause, and eventually died in front of a camera drinking a glass with poison, freezing all our hearts with his determination not to go on living forever immobilized because of an accident.

Before watching the movie I was already mesmerized by the strong symbology in its title, which I would translate as "Into the Sea" and not as some suggest "Out to sea", and which is taken from an original poem written by the man this story is about. Then I watched the movie. Oh my friends. This is Cinema with a capital C. The narration flows to take you to the heart of every single character: Sampedro, reincarnated in a Bardem that you forget from the very beginning, is in the center as a man full of sense of humour and full of hope, and his hope is to die, because for him, the life he is living is not worthy to be lived. The rest of the characters but one dance around him and respect his decision because they see him as a human independent being (forgetting he depends on the others for everything), even though they do love him so much. And this is what the movie is about: love. You can feel it, you can breathe it in the skin of every character. You witness the growing of the feeling within three women who meet him in the movie: Gené, the member of the association that defend his right to die with dignity, his friend, her story in the movie is the hope for us the lucky ones that can live a normal life in this world; Rosa, the woman who meets a good man in the middle of her list of broken relationships and pain in the hands of all the men who used her and despised her; Julia, the woman who shares a tragic destiny with Ramón, and eventually acts in a way we cannot but only understand.

However, before meeting these women Ramón knew what was love like, because you cannot meet him without loving him, and he is deeply loved by his abnegated family: Four characters unique in their humbleness and bravery, each with their own thoughts about his decision, each thought respectable in its own way, because the terrible thing about this story is that nobody is to blame for what happened. That, sadly, life sometimes is that terrible. From this familiar quartet I specially liked Mabel Rivera's work as Ramón's sister in law, Manuela: a terrific performance.

I would like to draw attention to three episodes that are for me the best climax points I have seen in a long time, and if you haven't seen the movie don't read this, pass over this paragraph and read again from the next one starting "Mar adentro", let the movie show its secrets to you. The episodes I loved were: 3. The best love scene I have seen in a movie, when I really felt love invading the screen, is when Ramón dreams awake that he is flying to meet Julia in the beach and they kiss each other. 2. Gené speaking by phone with Ramón, the day before he is going to do it, and he tells her it is better they say goodbye at that very moment, not to put her in trouble with the authorities. And then she knows it is the last time they are going to talk, and she has fought for his right to die... but she does not want to lose him, because she loves him as a true friend, and even though she is respecting his decision at all cost. 1. The best. A young Ramón in the beach, looking at his girlfriend under the sun, jumping to the water from the rocks to a sea that is retreating. We see the crash, we hear his voice recalling what happened and claiming he should have died that very moment. The face of Bardem, face downward, shown to us from the bottom. And the hand of a friend who pulls him from the forehead and brings him back to a life that will be a hell for him in the next 30 years. There are many others, like the impressive ending, in spite of the fact that in Spain we know too well what Ramon did.

Mar adentro did not deceive me, Amenabar never does, but this time he has to thank the actors that took part in the project, and who maybe took it personally, because this is not just a movie, it is an elegy to a man who died alone when he was asking to die "legally", which meant for him, as Bardem pointed out, dying with the people he loved and who loved him around.
42 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Mostly excellent story of a man who wants out of life
zetes23 September 2007
The true story of a Spanish paraplegic, Ramón Sampedro, who fought for decades for the right to be euthenized. This film, along with the Best Picture winner of the same year, Million Dollar Baby, caused a stir that year with their depictions of disabled persons desiring death. Both advocates for the disabled and (unfortunately for the disability advocates) conservative pro-life groups protested both films, and their Oscar nominations. The nominations also came during the entire Terry Schiavo debacle, just to put it all in some historical perspective. The protests, especially from the disability groups, against Million Dollar Baby make some sense – the film clearly depicted, without wavering, the life of a paraplegic as worthless. The film's central character, Maggie Fitzgerald, becomes a paraplegic, doesn't seem to get any counseling whatsoever, no help whatsoever, and immediately wants to die. The film is, honestly, pretty dumb and uncomplex. The Sea Inside, based on the true story, is certainly a lot more thoughtful on the subject. It most likely got railroaded into the same category as Million Dollar Baby without its protesters having even seen it, an incredibly common phenomenon. The film does give time to many different sides of the argument. And it immediately declares that the wish to die is that of the protagonist and the protagonist alone. It is guilty of a couple of crimes, though, and I'd still understand why disability groups could have a problem with it. First and foremost, there's the protagonist's meeting with a paraplegic bishop. I don't look kindly on the way he's depicted. His orally operated wheelchair is depicted as absurd, and there's almost a comic sequence where his effeminate, boy-toy servants are dragging him, in his chair, up the stairs. He can't even reach the room in which Ramón is located, and one of the boy-toys is forced to carry the conversation between them. I had to think, gee, maybe if Ramón lived in a slightly more wheelchair-accessible household, he wouldn't spend his entire life in bed, and might find life more fulfilling (who knows how closely the film depicts the reality). Director Amenábar (The Others) also includes some laughable scenes that try to make this film about suicide more life-affirming, like a cross-cut sequence where Ramón looks thoughtful and his lawyer's baby is born. But besides a few ugly moments, the film is very good. It hurts that someone may want to die when they have the ability to bring so much joy and insight into the lives of others. However, in the end, our lives do belong to us. Shouldn't we have the right to choose? The film's strongest asset is its supporting characters, and the actors who play them. It depicts how Ramón's fight and decisions affect those around him with a beautiful precision. The family members in particular are great, and Ramón's final departure from them is absolutely heartbreaking, and had me in tears. My favorite performance in the film comes from Lola Dueñas, whom I also felt gave the best, or at least certainly most undervalued, performance in Almodóvar's Volver last year.
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Reviewing the film, not the ideological issues
Brandt Sponseller14 June 2005
As I expected would happen, too many reviews of this film (from professionals and amateurs alike) have focused as much if not more on the film's ideology. That's because The Sea Inside (aka Mar adentro) is a film about euthanasia. Specifically, it's a true story about an infamous Galician named Ramón Sampedro, who fought for many years for the right to assisted suicide, who was denied that right by the Spanish constitutional court, and who--well, I don't want to ruin the ending of the film for you.

The real life Sampedro catalyzed a national debate on euthanasia in Spain. Now with producer/director/writer/composer/editor Alejandro Amenábar's (Abre Los Ojos, 1997, and The Others, 2001) "biopic", The Sea Inside, another rhetorical aid has been provided in the international debate on this hot button issue.

But as I keep saying (to deaf ears?), your opinion, pro or con, on the film's ideology shouldn't affect your rating of the film. You're not supposed to be rating the philosophical or political messages that Amenábar wants to make. You're supposed to be rating the film, as a film. Maybe that's a bit too idealistic, as none of us can likely completely divorce our evaluations from our ideological biases, but idealistic or not, that's the goal.

So forget about the philosophical and political issues for a moment. As a film, Amenábar has turned in one of his most elegant and mature works to date. He does not focus on societal debates. He does not focus on Sampedro's legal/political struggles. He focuses on Sampedro as a man, living out his days confined to a bed in his brother's home.

Sampedro, played here in an amazing performance by Javier Bardem, was a quadriplegic. As the film begins, he has been a quadriplegic for 26 years. That condition was brought about, as Amenábar shows us through marvelously shot flashbacks, by a diving accident--Sampedro was distracted by a beautiful woman, miscalculated the water, dove in, snapped his neck, and almost drowned. As a quadriplegic he eventually began writing poetry, some of which was published in a book entitled Cartas Desde El Infierno ("Letters from Hell"); in real life Sampedro's book became a best seller in Spain. Perhaps taking Sampedro's artistic work as a cue, Amenábar has created an elegantly poetic film.

Most of The Sea Inside is set inside Sampedro's bedroom. The focus in these scenes is Bardem's complex and sublime performance. As a quadriplegic, Bardem is limited to moving his head and talking. He has mastered subtle changes of expression and inflection to convey a deep character with a multifaceted, intellectual approach to life. Bardem and Amenábar have Sampedro often waxing philosophical in understated speech, but there's always a combination of a wicked sense of humor, passion for the aesthetic--including music and women, and a sadness and even occasionally bitterness not far below the surface. Different underlying emotions occasionally break through like waves on the skin of the ocean.

The people Sampedro interacts with most frequently facilitate this in complex ways. These others include his sister-in-law, Manuela (Mabel Rivera), who has been his chief caretaker since Sampedro's accident; his brother, José (Celso Bugallo), who is one of the vocal objectors to Sampedro's wish to die, and with whom there is an underlying unresolved issue (it seems like maybe José was the one to save Sampedro from drowning?); his nephew, Javier (Tamar Novas), who is perhaps the most understanding towards him; a right-to-die advocate, Gené (Clara Segura); a pro bono lawyer, Julia (Belén Rueda), whom he wanted because she had a degenerative disease, CADASIL (Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy), and would thus by more empathic, and who he falls in love with; and Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a local woman who works at a cannery and moonlights as a DJ, who heard about him from the media, who wants to convince him to desire to live, and who falls in love with him.

The bulk of the film consists of these characters interacting with Sampedro in his room. There are also a few other ancillary characters, including Sampedro's father, who remains oddly distant, and a notorious and media-conscious priest, Padre Francisco (José María Pou), who does his best to change Sampedro's mind via philosophy/theology (in a scene often mistakenly characterized as "comic"--it has an attendant comic element, but the scene is primarily very serious).

That most of the film takes place in Sampedro's room ingeniously gives the couple significant changes in setting greater impact. Sampedro's room has a nice, big window, which he says he is satisfied with as an observation point on the world. Maybe even more importantly, he regularly imagines the window as a launching pad through which he flies across the hillsides to the ocean, which he always loved, and which has been the most influential force in his life--it provided his living when he was younger and took his mobility away. Amenábar gives us a fantastical sequence of Sampedro imagining one of his flights to the sea. It is beautifully shot, with low angles (presumably from a helicopter) of the hills rushing by, until we follow a stream to the wide-open ocean, which in this film represents freedom, the infinite, and natural forces.

The other significant change of setting arrives with Sampedro finally taking to a wheelchair (he otherwise refused them, saying they "mocked his immobility") to make an appearance in court to help plead his case. Amenábar gives us a poignant, melancholy travelogue, shot subjectively, of Sampedro viewing life and the world in action from the car window.

Whether you agree with legalizing euthanasia or not, it's difficult to deny that this is a well-acted, well-scripted and well-constructed film. You may not believe that it's a ten (and that's even more unlikely if you disagree with legalizing euthanasia), but it's still worth watching as a fine example of artistic, sophisticated film-making.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Is a great life if you don't weaken
hall1000014 February 2005
THE SEA INSIDE a film by Alejandro Amenabar.

Almodovar has always single handed the flag for Spanish cinema for years now, out of nowhere came Amenabar reinventing genres and injecting some new blood to the otherwise malfunctioning Spanish industry, now in a big gamble he switches from psychological terror to social drama, well the big ones would be, are audiences ready to embrace the swing and more important can he hold the flag? This is the story of Ramon Sampedro, a sailor that in his twenties was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident at the sea and his fight with the Spanish government for the right to end his life. The story has the traces of an afternoon made for TV melodrama and the only way this is going to work is through words and honest performances and they both come in spades. Mateo Gil and Amenabar co-write in a way where the audience is not meant to be lead blind to a death end but they are encouraged to make up their own minds in the process and that is a brilliant stroke, this is not a movie pro death but a movie in favour of the ultimate illusions of our time LIBERTY. There is a few laughs spare a long the way, like when the church comes home in a wheel chair to deconstruct Sampedro beliefs but is mostly a valley of tears through out, punches coming from all fronts even when you think you are safe his father that to that point didn't make any sense comes up with the most moving line of the entire movie. It is a heartbreaking experience specially when Sampedro seems more full of life than most the people wandering the streets and everyone around him tries to convince him of the wonders of life even those who are helping him to die… but when you strip a man of his dreams… The film is almost exclusively built on close ups bringing a claustrophobic feeling that makes the audience more sympathetic with Sampedro. That's for the actors a huge challenge that must construct their whole performances with their eyes and the eyes don't lie. Bardem was not granted his second Oscar nomination, probably in favour of Eastwood, but in my opinion he was the only one who could have shadowed Jammie Fox. This role reminds me of the great Gregory Peck in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD where the acting looked effortless and I reckon Bardem has reached that status where the line of what is acting and what is real has become completely blur. I was never fond of his early work but since Almodovar's LIVE FLESH he is on a roll, LOS LUNES AL SOL, THE DANCER UPSTAIRS and the Oscar nominated BEFORE THE NIGHT FALLS made him an international star and although he and Banderas come from the same Almodovar background is fascinating to see how different paths they took and how Bardem has now become a real reference for Spanish cinema in the whole world. A golden globe, 14 Goyas, jury prize at Venice and probably an Oscar with permission from THE CHORUS BOYS, Amenabar directs, co-write, edits and puts music to a high caliber drama, he has pull it off… what about some Science Fiction now? Whose life is it anyway?****.
33 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Everyone is Weeping!
TheHumbleCritic26 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I had planned to ignore "The Sea Inside" after initially viewing it, assuming it would be another one of these small films that would creep out of the theaters unnoticed and forgotten. To my dismay, it was recently nominated by the Academy for Best Foreign Film over deserving films like "House of Flying Daggers," bleakly ensuring "Sea" a run of at least another two months. So I feel it my duty to break the bad news for the critics who wept for this film: "The Sea Inside" is a terrible, and terribly simple movie. This does not take away from the excellent performance by Javier Bardem, who in the film plays a quadriplegic named Ramon condemned to a life in bed. As Bardem spends most of the movie under sheets, the role is exceedingly more difficult than the casual film-goer may be led to believe. In short, it's a masterful job of communicating charisma and pathos through facial tics alone. In the hands – or more aptly face – of a less capable actor, this role could be not just profoundly boring, but terribly frustrating. Bardem, the great actor he is, commits a fine face to the screen. Of course, in all fairness, since he IS lying on his back for a good portion of the film, it's not the most difficult role ever created. I got a small kick out of seeing him move his head around with that brush, just for the fact that there was finally some movement in his dreary dun bedroom.

With that out of the way, now we can criticize this sappy proselytism. The basic plot line is simple and straightforward and you can read it from the many other reviews on this site. What is not commented on is the dreadfully mawkish manner in which director Alejandro Amenabar chooses to tell his story. Every character gets his and her cameo to shed a tear (with an 's' in some cases), and Amenabar insipidly captures this sentimentality in gross close-up after close-up. Let's face it, folks: Amenabar is no D.W. Griffith, and these grieving mugs aren't in the same league as Lillian Gish. Hell, I'd even settle for Julianne Moore's Gretta Garbo imitation here. But – as the director prods us on – can't we see the sorrow and grief that not supporting euthanasia is causing? Yes, and that's all we see. Amenabar relies on this type of manipulation for two hours to push his agenda. Let me put it simply: any hack can plunge the knife in our hearts and twist. In my mind, "The Sea Inside" mines territory covered by "Stepmom," by "Beaches," by "Terms of Endearment." This is not intended as a complement.

Amenabar might think he's making waves, but he's really just treading water and going nowhere in his sea of tears as he preaches his sermon. Rather than present an argument for euthanasia, Amenabar settles for cheap good vs. evil storytelling. The chief flaw in this type of presentation about an actual social problem, not only in Spain but also in most of the world, is that there is absolutely no conflict of views. Believers in euthanasia are obviously understanding and sympathetic in the film; detractors of it are pious religious types with no brains of their own, intent on oppressing one's life for selfish and ignorant beliefs. Excuse me if this isn't simplifying the subject, all as the film clumsily sidesteps any moral or social dilemmas this topic has clearly had an effect on in society. Ham-handed attempts at equalizing discussion, such as a mildly amusing "debate" between Ramon and another crippled priest, are not as even as they may seem. I include debate in scare quotes because there really isn't even a reasonable battle of argument; the film clearly sides with RIGHT Ramon and his irreplaceable wit over the less articulate, stubborn, and clearly WRONG priest. By showing scenes like this, Amenabar doesn't want to challenge his own views, and instead piles on more hypocrisy and ad hominem by attacking Ramon's family rather than the issue of euthanasia itself. These instances are just a couple in many (the courtroom scene, the sympathetic lawyer, the didactic conclusion) that show how gutless single-mindedness can ruin a potentially good premise.

Those looking to be converted need not see "Sea." Like Michael Moore and "Fahrenheit 9/11," like Mel Gibson and "The Passion of the Christ," Amenabar, here a proud liberal, is only interested in addressing like-minded fans who agree with him. He sticks to his understanding of a sole idea slavishly and ostentatiously. T.S. Eliot, you may recall, said of Henry James that the writer had "too fine a mind to be violated by a single idea." This film, on the other hand, seems entirely to be the violation of a single idea: the unquestionable and unchallenged correctness – and political correctness – of the verity of euthanasia. I guess it's what we thought all along anyway, right?
26 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Too heavy handed and maudlin for me
FalmouthFilm23 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The supporting cast was brilliant and begged for more of the story. The performances of the son and brother grounded the film firmly to the soil of that farm and family. The unsentimentalized, caring Manuela was another outstanding performance. And finally the effervescent Gene stole every scene she was in. The brilliant supporting cast raised the movie up to greatness.

Would that the film consisted of these performances and that the paraplegic was offstage like the madwoman in the attic, because the film became flat and plodding when Ramon and his lawyer, Julia, were on screen. The soundtrack was calculated to be heart wrenching in an extremely heavy handed way, manipulating the viewer's emotions in ways that didn't fit with the content of the scene itself.

***** Spoiler to follow ****

Finally the film sank entirely in the final scene when we go with Gene to visit Julia. The filmmaker shows us the profoundly disabled woman she has now become It is almost as if this is her comeuppance for her failure of nerve? principal? in letting down our hero and not going through with their agreed upon plan. I found that scene to be gratuitous. We know that Julia had a degenerative disease. We know that she changed her mind (but not the reason, a disarmingly light touch in a didactic story) when we see her on the beach with her husband and see that the book has been shipped to Ramon. Here the directing was ham-fisted about the ramifications of not choosing euthanasia with the added touch of seeing the achingly beautiful Julia laid low.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Multi-awarded-winner based on real-case notorious in Spain of a paraplegic who wants to die , including a wronged message , pro-euthanasia
ma-cortes9 February 2015
The factual story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro (a near-unrecognisable Javier Bardem whose unflashy expertise acting does justice to him and his cause) , who fought to wish to die , a thirty-year campaign in favor of euthanasia and his own right to pass away . Meanwhile , Ramon tries to stimulate his fertile but frustrated imagination . Ramon is tired of being a burden to his family , friends and an object of pity to others . He's even more tired of the Spanish government when his advocate in law Marc (Francesc Garrido) defends his case and Court refuses to allow him an assisted suicide means he can't attain the dignity in death he feels he's denied in life . Film explores Ramón's relationships with his family , sister-in-law (Mabel Rivera) , oldest brother (Celso Bugallo) , grandfather (Joan Dalmau) , and two women: Julia (Belen Rueda) , a lawyer who supports his cause and helps him his published memories , and Rosa (Lola Dueñas) , a local woman who wants to convince him that life is worth living and mostly attempts to persuade him to carry on .

This is a feeling drama plenty of sensibility , emotion, dramatic moments , hugely engaging interpretations and sense of style . Direction , cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe, soundtrack also by Amenábar all are assured and respectful . It is a superior uplifting Weepie with some manipulative limitations that entail the story . This is the second Spanish movie about Ramon Sampedro's life, the first one was Condenado a Vivir (2001) by Robert Bodegas . It deals with a titanic fight carried out by the Galician ex-sailor against government , Justice and Catholic Church represented by another quadriplegic , a priest perfectly played by Jose Maria Pou . Very good acting by Javier Bardem as terribly restrictive quadriplegic confined to his bed with just books and the sight of the Galician hills outside his window . For international spectators the main attraction will surely be the immensely charming , very expressive acting of a magnificent Javier Bardem . Special mention to Belen Rueda as an adoring lawyer ; however , when Belén Rueda was phoned to be informed about she had just been chosen to play a role in an Amenábar film she hung up , as she thought they were kidding her ; from now on , she obtained a lot of important roles such as ¨The orphanage¨, ¨The Julia's eyes¨ , ¨The body¨, ¨Septimo¨, ¨No Tengas Miedo¨, among others . This was the most awarded Spanish movie at the Goya Awards, winning 14 of the 15 awards for which it was nominated . Selected by the Spanish Cinematographic Academy to represent Spain in the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 2004 Oscars.

The motion picture was compellingly written -along with Mateo Gil- and directed by Alejandro Amenábar . Alejandro's slickness ensures entertainment , amusement and many engaging moments . Since his perhaps best-known early short-film "Himenóptero" in 1992, in which he directed , produced, acted and wrote the script and the music, Amenábar progressed and reached his first commercial success in 1996 with "Thesis", Amenabar was 23 when he directed this his feature debut , a film which undoubtedly showed that a major new director had arrived on the scene . And ¨Abre Los Ojos¨ that was remade in Hollywood by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky (2001), starring Tom Cruise who in ¨The others¨ was executive producer along with Paula Wagner and this marked the last collaboration between Cruise and Nicole Kidman prior to their divorce . ¨Los Otros¨ (2001) was released a few months prior to Vanilla Sky (2001), the American remake of 'Alejandro Amenabár''s Abre Los Ojos (1997). Ironically, it starred Nicole Kidman's then estranged husband Tom Cruise . "Los Otros" confirmed his arrival in the cinematographic world and is Amenábar's first English language film and was the highest grossing Spanish film in the all-time worldwide box office history . In all his films Alejandro also writes the script and the music, as well as composing the music for other films , most notably "Butterflies tongue" (1999). He subsequently directed this ¨Mar Adentro¨ with the Oscarized Javier Bardem and finally the epic/historical ¨Agora¨ with Rachel Weisz . Rating : Better than average . Essential and indispensable watching .
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Memorable. Greatness.
dangabriel14 March 2011
Six years ago I watched this film. It is still fresh in my mind, as if I had watched it last night. Movies don't get more impressive. It is so far the best drama I have seen (out of more than 5000 movies, one a day ) I watched over the last 10 years. Nec plus ultra, and it supports my opinion that Spain produces the best cinematography of all countries lately.

The story -inspired from reality-is scripted to emotional perfection. Dialogues are exacting, gripping, powerful. There is not a dull moment, as the tension is so strong that even the beautiful landscapes, the flashbacks of Ramon (J. Bardem) the music filled intervals, never detract from the harrowing story.

It is not sad, it is not happy, it is not right not wrong, not legal not illegal. For whichever view one may take on the issue, there is a contrarian view of equal power beautifully suggested in the story. Indifference is what you will not feel. The Jesuit priest scene is only one instance of critique of the simplistic opinions and hypocrisy in the bourgeois society.

Amenabar has put together this masterpiece with a superb script and crystalline photography, precise cast and evocative music (some by himself). Justly awarded for this movie, he has carved a solid name for himself in cinema.

Javier Bardem gives probably the best performance of his career (though I really hope he is able of even more in the future). European Film Awards granted him aptly the Best Actor prize that year. For a movie about the very lack of mobility, with most scenes in a room with a bed and little more, for a character that moves eyes and eyebrows, Bardem is a wonder in the acting guild. Another noted performance of Bardem would be his deliciously versatile act in "Before Night Falls" The supporting actors deliver strong scenes, especially Belen Rueda (Julia).

Some review this film as being a debate on an issue. It is, but also far more than that. It is the essence of humanity, makes you think, makes you cry. And -as tested on myself- after many years and thousands of films I have watched after it, it remains the most powerful. This movie unleashes the force of life. I cannot think of a more memorable experience in cinema.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Gem...
namashi_116 October 2010
Based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro, a Spanish ship mechanic left quadriplegic after a diving accident. 'Mar adentro' is his story, it's based on the hopes he had, and on how he said good-bye to life.

Alejandro Amenábar, the director of the film, makes a Gem. It's one of the most moving and enlightening experiences you'd watch. Late Ramón Sampedro was a man beyond his words, his weakness and his strength. He was a man to remember, which he has since his death. His final stages unfold with terrific direction, and some dramatic cinematography.

And of course the performances: Javier Bardem is top-notch as Late Ramón Sampedro. He has proved his caliber, once again. Belén Rueda is absolutely flawless. Lola Dueñas also delivers a bravura performance. But it's Mabel Rivera, who steals the show, with an excellent performance.

On the whole, ' Mar adentro' is an experience you just can't afford to miss. Two Big Thumbs Up!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An astounding performance in a deeply moving film
runamokprods30 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
On first viewing I really liked this film. I loved the acting and the style but I felt a certain emotional distance keeping me from labeling it great.

But on second viewing, I found myself far more deeply moved, while still being intellectually challenged by the moral, emotional and ethical complexity of the story of a brilliant quadriplegic man with much to give the world wanting to die.

Bardem gives a truly heartbreaking, world class performance, and is closely matched by those around him. Director Amenabar also wrote the score for his own film and it is terrific and original. Throughout, there were some stylish touches that gave me a visceral shiver.

A few simplistic scenes, and slower moments keep me from calling it a perfect film, but it's not far off.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Morality or Cinema?
Henry Fields16 April 2005
-Facts (I): "Mar Adentro" relates the well-known (at least in Spain) story of Ramón Sampedro, a Galician quadriplegic who killed himself (helped by some friends) after 28 years prostrated by his condition. Judges had denied several times his petitions of active euthanasia.

-Facts (II): "Mar adentro" becomes THE MOVIE OF THE YEAR in Spain. Everyone talks about it: politicians, singers, ordinary people... Everyone likes it, even the critics' opinions are unanimous. The film wins a lot of prizes (Golden Globe, Oscar, Goya...) and annoys catholic community and life-lovers quadriplegics. A star is born.

-Facts (III): The intensity and the quality of the actors in "Mar Adentro" are just amazing, and this makes mi wonder how come we have to watch the same bad young actors in the most of Spanish latest movies. I don't know if Javier Bardem is a great actor or a great imitator (there's quite a difference between one thing or the other); anyway, his job is just impressive, as well as Lola Dueñas', Belén Rueda's, or the job of all the guest starrings. This is (the actors selection) the strong point in Amenábar's movie.

-Facts (IV): Alejandro Amenábar learned his lesson there at the Cinema School, there's no doubt about it: he's got a privileged brain. He takes good control of each and every one of the technical aspects, he knows what the audiences want, he knows how to touch the right chord, even if that turns him into such a demagogue (just like Spielberg is -one of Amenábar's idols-).

-Facts (and V): If you criticize a movie such as "Mar Adentro" it will seem like you have any kind of trouble with the moral issue the story tells about. There's a trap in this kind of pictures: you have to differentiate between the movie itself and the moral concepts. If you don't like "Schindler's List" that does not mean that you agree with Hitler's philosophy (or do you?). So, for me, it is a good film and an extraordinary story (since it is a real story that makes it much more extraordinary). Grandiloquent, self-kind, and everything but neutral (no matter what Amenábar or Bardem have said about it: those characters that are not in favor of euthanasia come to no good at all!!). 50 % Hard / 50% way too sentimental.

-Epilogue: "Mar Adentro" wouldn't be by no mean in my ranking of the best 50's Spanish movies of all time. Nobody has special merits in the story but Ramon Sampedro himself. He IS the movie. Now, Alejandro Amenábar is gonna become the more international Spanish director ever, maybe he'll go to live to Hollywood; but some of us would like to watch him filming a simple story, without bit final twists, without living dead nor dying alive... "The Others" is still his best movie.

*My rate: 7/10
8 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An inspiring tale of a living death; Bardem is superb
george.schmidt27 December 2004
THE SEA INSIDE (2004) **** Javier Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Joan Dalmau, Alberto Jimenez, Tamar Novas, Francesc Garrido, Jose Maria Pou, Alberto Amarilla, Nicolas Fernandez Luna.(Dir: Alejandro Amenabar)

An inspiring tale of a living death; Bardem is superb

The true life account of Spanish quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro and his petition to fulfill his desire for euthanasia by the right to die may not be considered a likely source of inspiration but this film is just that.

Sampedro (played superbly by Bardem) was a virile, energetic young man when he lost the function to his limbs after a tragic diving accident (recounted horrifically in flashback with a visceral jolt to the senses) and for nearly thirty years lay paralyzed in bed while his loving family cared to his every need. Although his abilities to move were nil his mind was very much active and proved skillful as an inventor, poet, author and artist that kept his mind busy until he could no longer bear the thought of living longer in his stunted condition.

Enter beautiful yet also afflicted with a crippling disease attorney Julia (the ethereal Rueda who matches Bardem beautifully as if they were indeed soul mates) is hired to see through Sampedro's final wish to end his life and in turn becomes an aide de camp when he begins to open up to her like to no one ever before. Not too long has time passed and Julia begins to investigate her charge's past discovering many letters hidden away by his family. When Julia confronts Ramon with this he at first is reluctant to discuss any thing with her but eventually he agrees with her that this may help his case and the project becomes a book in the making – a memoir/biography by way of free-style poetry and prose.

The film is a heartbreaking tale of the human spirit and how love eventually triumphs over heart ache in many forms including for Ramon the unlikely love he shares with a complete stranger named Rosa (Duenas) a single mother who sees him on TV one day inspiring her to bicycle to his remote farmhouse in Spain to get to know him and possibly change his mind about ending his life.

Filmmaker Amenabar, who co-wrote with Mateo Gil the fascinating screenplay, allows some fantasy into the mix when Ramon envisions himself magically leaving his bed and flying across the bucolic landscapes to the eventual sea where he suffered so many years ago the cruel twist of fate that has imprisoned him for three decades. The film is not a complete downer with a sly wit and occasionally humorous tone throughout that doesn't dilute the impact of the story's final act. Kudos also to the remarkable make-up job by James and Jo Allen do a tremendous job in aging the vibrant Bardem to an aging man to full effect that should get them an Acadamy Award nod.

Bardem and Rueda deserve Oscar nominations as two people with so much in common and despite Rueda's Julia being married to a loving, doting husband, that a pair of people so made for one another it is down right impossible they were never together to begin with. That's just one of the cruelties that rings true but it is not by definition of the film as its whole; it is a must-see and one of the year's best.
7 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Am I really supposed to feel sorry for this guy?
Lady_Schwartz20 July 2006
I saw this film in my writing class. Before I continue, I'd like to state that I'm undecided on assisted suicide, my review is not a bigoted review made to attack the movie for its message.

The reason I dislike this film is that it is very smug especially the ending of the film. I felt that it was made to belittle others who disagree with assisted suicide. A film with a strong political message needs sympathetic characters on both sides. Ramon, the main character, is not very sympathetic in my opinion. I found that he was very snotty and ungrateful for other people (Rosa, his brother). If he really wants to be respected for his opinion, the least he could do is to respect the opinions of other people.

I feel that the film forces the main character on the viewers instead of allowing him to prove himself alone. Yes, it's great to have a likable main character, but this movie just overdoes it. Ramon is never wrong and Ramon never pays for his rude behavior. In fact, it seems as if everyone is apologizing to him for his rude comments.

The film was a good idea, but it just didn't work for me.
9 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Difficult to Endure
Shannon Weiss14 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside delivers the story of Ramon Sampedro, a man beseeching the Spanish justices to tolerate euthanasia on his behalf. The film seemingly sympathizes with its main character's wishes as the majority of the characters are willing to assist Sampedro in his plight. The only consistently protestant character is Sampedro's brother yet his objective sets him apart as an antagonistic force to battle rather than to reason with. Throughout the course of the film one's predictions as to the outcome fluctuate, as it is hard to determine whether Sampedro will go through with his death wish or admit that life is not as terrible as it might seem. As the film progresses one finds it increasingly difficult to watch, given the main character's unrelenting pessimism despite the plethora of loving individuals that surround and admire him.

As Sampedro's story unfolds the things he reveals about his life make it more difficult to sympathize with him. For example when asked about love Sampedro admits that he had a girlfriend at the time he was paralyzed; she remained with him through his hospitalization and asked that they be married. Sampedro refused her, claiming that he was incapable of loving in his condition. When encouraged to view love as more than mere physicality Sampedro states that he cannot. The main character speaks critically of everyone around him, at times causing his family and friend pain due to his evident bitterness. Aside from his voluntarily grizzly persona, Sampedro's character is notably intelligent, inventive and imaginative. He is able to dream, but only of death. He is able to write, but only of the hell that holds him captive. He is able to remember, yet chooses to reminisce only of his accident.

The film is difficult to endure, especially as it nears its close. Sampedro denounces the love of those who refuse to assist him in his suicide. He lashes out against his family and friends until at last one young woman, desperate to receive love from someone, agrees to help him with his plight. She procures a poison, rents an apartment and sets Sampedro up with a camera. Sampedro speaks to the justices, through the camera, telling them that he will have his way whether it is legal or not. He then sips the poison and dies on film. Before the film ends, however, it revisits a close friend of Sampedro who decided against euthanasia despite living with a degenerative disease. She is seen sitting in a wheel chair near the beach, is evidently blind, and has lost her memory. Even after this moment it is difficult to determine if the film is supporting or criticizing euthanasia. One could argue that the woman's quality of life had been degrading by the disease and yet her determination and her husband's dedication are both admirable. It is difficult to ignore the fact that Sampedro's mind was never at risk of deteriorating and so his death allows him to avoid being emotionally burdened by an event that changed his life almost thirty years ago. While the viewer's external context establishes a bias toward the issue even prior to watching the film, Sampedro's nastiness and lack of will do little to encourage support or understanding on his behalf.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Compelling and interesting film that never strays too far into the political nor the documentary.
johnnyboyz10 November 2008
I suppose it's quite an achievement to be able to present to an audience a true tail about a frail man; a tail in which the protagonist will spend the majority of the film on his back, in a bed and totally unable to move. And yet the achievement is in the film's effectiveness as a dramatic piece; as a recollection of a true story and I guess as an argument as to why people should have the right to die if they so wish to. But the film isn't a political statement and perhaps thankfully it shies away from too many scenes of debate although it does include one for the sake of argument anyway. More-so, this is one of those foreign language films that presents its lead character as a cripple whom can do nothing but talk to the people around him and yet is able to come across as engaging and compelling anyway.

So rather than be an out and out argument, the film is more a sweet yet timely dramatic piece about another person wanting something or in search of something; the only difference is that by attaining this 'goal', it would mean the termination of a someone's life and it would be achieved by not physically going anywhere. Javier Bardem plays real life Galician Ramón Sampedro, an individual who at a much earlier age dived into a clearing of water that was too shallow for such activity. This rendered him bedridden for the rest of his life and his wish to die is the focus of Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar's film. We've seen so many films in our lives in which characters have certain 'goals' or targets one must meet before the film is over to provide a satisfactory experience for the audience, but the change of pace in The Sea Inside is gentle; it does not involve young, energetic, attractive heroes going off to do battle in far off places but a real person after something that means so much to them.

Even if you do have a strong policy, either pro or anti-euthanasia, you may find yourself hoping Ramón gets what he wants at the end of it all anyway. The film sets its tone very early on with Ramón giving a speech on why he wants to die to watching family members, immediately introducing the situation and subject to the watching audience who may not know what the film is about. Interestingly, some of the family members are 'anti' what he wishes which might place any audience member that feels strongly about the subject in their respective shoes. But the purpose of this set up is to tell the audience 'No, this isn't one man after something who incidentally has the whole of his family backing him to the end'. Quite easily, the film could've gone down a route in which it is the Sampedro family vs. everybody else but some are anti-Ramón's idea; some are too young to acknowledge what's really going on and others are seemingly too distraught to even have an opinion other than they just want Ramón to stick around a bit longer, they love him after all.

The Sea Inside is a following of a story revolving around a victim of sorts. Ramón is a quadriplegic and it is his perspective we see things from. This is something that may disjoint viewers or have the film come across as quite odd given we are being presented with a film from the point of view of a victim rather than an instigator or a lead character in a film that is always inducing the cause in the cause and effect drive. But this is no criticism and it's a credit to the director for delivering such an approach in the effective manner in which it is. The film asks questions; it offers a scenario to its audience. If you were in Ramón's position: what would you do, or think about or dream of or talk about? Consequently, dreams about lawyer Juila (Rueda) are not so much shot for the audience's pleasure as much as they are an ever so slight window into one man's escapist fantasies from his predicament.

The study of Julia intensifies somewhat later on when a she begins to share certain similarities with Ramón and that is when she begins to have strokes that are a result of a disease of her own. This trait seems timely in the progression of their relationship and adds a further ingredient of connection on top of an already engaging friendship. This is because Julia feels the physical pain and restriction, not in a sense that she isn't able to get up and walk, but I think she realises the value of life given how emotionally bad she felt beforehand. While the film is based on a true story and covers the subject of euthanasia, it feels like more of a down to Earth drama about a man in a situation in which he is prepared to fight for what he wants but must do so verbally. It's refreshing to see films like The Sea Inside as it not only references history and gives us an insight into that but as a stand alone film, delivers on an emotional and engaging level.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Riveting and inspiring in spite of such an apparently downbeat subject
Chris_Docker1 April 2005
You can't move. At least nothing below the neck moves. You can't turn around. You can't eat or drink unaided, or do, choose, or effectively decide, very much for that matter.

Once you had a full life, travelling the world as a ship hand, living and loving to the full. Inside, your spirit still soars, racing along the beach, catching the spray of the waves, smelling the hair of a woman in your arms. But now your spirit has been disenfranchised, stranded behind the veil of your dreams. You have become a distant observer of your own life, powerless to get involved, a ghost at the wheel.

This is the evocative story based on the real life Ramon Sanpedro who became a quadriplegic after a diving accident, and it is the film's brilliant interiorisation of his world, making the audience feel and see things as if they were the highly articulate Ramon, that gives it the gut-wrenching force to scale the heights of emotional grandeur - rather than wallowing in the grim mire of a sentimental 'message' movie.

Early on, the audience is tantalisingly entrusted with the attraction that this unusual man convincingly conveys. Manuela, his sister in law, is devoted to him. Rosa, a struggling local DJ and factory worker, is enamoured of him. But it is Julia, a beautiful lawyer representing him that most understands and empathises with him, partly as she has a dark secret of her own. The right to die campaign worker, Gene, is inexhaustibly supportive, and one of the most well balanced characters morally. But with who, if any, will romantic flights of fancy become physical? And who, if any, will help him achieve his wish to say goodbye to the world if and when the courts fail him in his quest?

The Sea Inside is a quiet revelation that packs emotional honesty, a memorable script (using excerpts from Sanpedro's poetry) and superb acting from Javier Bardem. It tackles a difficult subject more thoroughly and engagingly than has ever been done before and kept me wide awake with eyes glued to the screen even after an exhausting day. Its weakest point is that those of a different viewpoint are handled without the gravitas afforded Sanpedro's own wish to end his life. The visiting priest is an object of ridicule and humour and, while this provides some excellent light relief, it smacks of an absence of intellectual rigour in an otherwise very thorough examination of the issues. But this is only a small criticism in what is otherwise a monumental and highly recommendable film.

Chris Docker
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews