Sea Inside, The (Mar Adentro)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner9/02/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Impressively made drama that is both moving and thought-provoking, thanks to a strong script and a powerful central performance by Javier Bardem.

Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar is only on his fourth film, but he already has one of the most enviable careers imaginable: he made a big splash with his first film, the snuff-movie thriller Tesis; his second film Open Your Eyes was an international hit that got remade as Vanilla Sky; his third film was the critical and commercial hit The Others and his fourth picture has just received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film.

Based On A True Story

However, where his first three films were all variations on the thriller genre, The Sea Inside is a mature emotional drama and marks a confident step in a new direction.

Based on a true story, the film stars Javier Bardem (Jamon, Jamon, Collateral) as Juan Sampedro, who has been a quadriplegic for the last 26 years, following a diving accident as a young man. He is cared for by his loving family: his brother (Celso Bugallo), sister-in-law (Mabel Rivera), nephew (Tamar Novas) and father (Joan Dalmau). However, Ramon has decided that he cannot live with his disability any more, so he contacts the Die With Dignity foundation and they take his case.

His lawyer, Julia (Belen Rueda) also suffers from a degenerative disease and the two develop a close bond as they work together to challenge the court for Ramon’s right to choose death.

The film is careful to get across that Ramon (and by extension, the film-makers) does not believe that everyone in his position should die – in fact, when Julia hints that she has also been thinking of ending it all, Ramon’s reaction suggests that he will try and talk her out of it.

Similarly, despite appearances, this is no ‘Issue of the Week’ movie (one can easily imagine how awful an American remake would be) - instead, Amenabar and co-writer Mateo Gil concentrate closely on the characters and what emerges is a sensitive film about love, family, friendship and respect.

Guaranteed Tear Jerker

Bardem’s performance is heart-breakingly good (he was widely predicted to pick up another Oscar nomination, but the Academy went with Eastwood instead) and all the more remarkable when you consider that Ramon is bed-ridden and paralysed for almost the entire film. Bardem conveys so much emotion with his eyes and smile that it’s impossible not to be moved by the power of his performance.

The supporting cast are good too, particularly Rueda and Lola Duenas as Rosa, the slightly obsessed local girl who falls in love with Ramon and begs him not to die.

The script is well-written and thought-provoking, treating its subject with sensitivity and never once stooping to sentimentality or a sermon. There’s also a surprising amount of humour in the film, particularly in the scene where a priest arrives to try and talk Ramon out of his decision and terse messages are ferried up and down stairs between the two men. In addition, it’s beautifully filmed, by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe.

In short, The Sea Inside is a moving, thoughtful, sensitive drama that fully deserves its Oscar nomination and is guaranteed to get the tears flowing. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 18/01/2020 10:45

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