The Sea Inside

Reviewed by: illuminaire

January 11, 2007

Rating: five

Javier Bardem as Ramon Sampedro
Belen Rueda as Julia
Lola Duenas as Rosa
Celso Bugallo as Jose (his elder brother)
Mabel Rivera as Manuela (his sister in law)
Joan Dalmau as Joaquin (his father)

Based on the moving true story that captured the world’s attention, "The Sea Inside" is about a paralyzed man, Ramon Sampedro, who fought a 30-year-old campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity. The story revolves around his relationship with two women: Julia, a lawyer who supports his cause; and Rosa, a local woman who wants to convince him that life is worth living.

The title of the film had come from one of Sampedro’s poems, and certainly the idea of the sea was never far away from his thoughts as depicted from the opening sequence of the film. As the camera pans over the sea, vast and expanse in itself, reveals a perspective of vibrancy and vitality and freedom. Yet, it was also the culprit that brought our leading character to be trapped - within him as it robbed him of his ability to move.

“I think that living is a right, not an obligation. Nevertheless, I have been obligated to tolerate this pitiful situation.”
- Ramon Sampedro, The Sea Inside

Having spent 26 years of his life trapped in a body without the use of his limbs have convinced Ramon that he is not living a life of dignity. Being dependent on others for his basic needs, he felt no privacy at all other than in his own mind.

The film successfully puts across Ramon’s intense pain of not being able to live a life of his choosing, one with dignity, yet it also gives full voice to other perspectives. How can we favour Ramon ending his life when we can see how much magic his presence brings into the lives of those around him?

Despite what might be seen as a downbeat subject, the film is a strikingly uplifting and inspirational in its exploration of this gloomy and sombre subject matter - euthanasia. Director Amenabar and his cast made us fall in love with a man who longed to die by seeing his quest for suicide not as an error made in depression or desperation, but a liberating fulfilment of human self – determination. We can imagine ourselves in his position and would morally insist that living is the right choice but Bardem’s portrayal has defied that choice. He imbues his character with a naturalness that made us empathetic to the reasons for his cause and ultimately made us lean towards his decision to commit suicide. He acts with only his voice and face, giving the most stirring and riveting performance that marks Ramon as one of the most memorable characters in the history of cinema; and cementing his status as an actor.

"The Sea Inside" is a celebration of freedom and a guide to looking at life from another perspective. After all, Ramon had lived a full life of 50 odd years, only actively seeking death in his late forties. It makes you think about things that are part of life, and you will definitely come out of it thinking how beautiful it is to live and a deeper appreciation of what life is.

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