A review of “The Sea Inside” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for adult situations

Run Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

 

 

In a stunning departure from his eerie horror film The Others, Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar offers up a contemplative tale of the value of a human life.

Javier Bardem gives a bravura performance as a quadriplegic who has made the decision to die with dignity. Ramón Sampedro (Bardem) has lived in a frozen shell for almost thirty years (the result of a diving accident) and has come to terms with the struggle for unfulfilled desires and the hurt he will inevitably inflict on family and friends. Unfortunately for Sampedro Spanish law prohibits euthanasia.

Sampedro’s public campaign for the right-to-die opens up the door to new friendships with an attractive female lawyer (Belén Rueda as Julia) in charge of Sampedro’s crusade and a neighborhood woman who hears of Sampedro’s struggle and wishes to meet the brave man in the flesh.

Those powerful friendships do little to wither Sampedro’s determination, but they do inject colossal feelings of love and lust that have long lie dormant. As his Church clings fiercely to life and mortality Sampedro fights for the right to renounce his most precious asset.

Northern Spain’s Galician coast is a breathtaking backdrop to this affirmation of the human spirit.  Fantasy sequences show Sampedro flying from his bedroom window and soaring over the oceanic landscape, a wildly beautiful and barren backdrop at odds with the pain and suffering he endures and a straightforward connection to the freedom he desperately desires.

Javier Bardem is winning kudos the world over for his moving portrayal of real-life euthanasia pioneer Ramón Sampedro who “cries with a smile”.  His longing to end a life in which he is no more than a physical prisoner is profound, rife with bittersweet resignation and acerbic wit. And just enough over-dramatization to give pause.

The sea gave him life and the sea took it away; an affecting testament to the heroic battle of Ramón Sampedro.