The Sea Inside


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Sea Inside
"Bardem's performance is astonishing, not so much in his ability to mimic a wasted body, but by capturing the essence of a lively intelligence."

These are dangerous waters and Alejandro Amenabar navigates without charts. What might have been a one-sided political argument, washed with tears and oozing sentimentality, is a human story, all the better for its basis in truth.

This is a film about love and death.

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Is love selfish? Is death even more selfish? Has anyone the right to make demands on another? Is freedom cruel and liberty a lie? Is religion hollow and this life the one and only?

The poet and writer Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem) became a quadriplegic after breaking his neck in a swimming accident 28 years ago. He lies in an upstairs room in his brother's farmhouse in Spain, only able to move his head. He wants to die; he demands it. No one will listen, because euthanasia is against the law and because he is so loved.

The film is resonant with the sound of laughter. Ramon's dry, dark humour mocks those who pity and protect him. When sympathy comes to visit, he barbs his language. A desire for death is logical, right? "You learn to cry with a smile," he says. Dependent upon others, what can he do but play word games and test the limits of those who care for him?

Surprisingly, there is a strong sexual undercurrent. The beautiful lawyer (Belen Rueda), who has given up her time to help him fight his case, finds her emotions compromised. The factory worker (Lola Duenas) with two kids, who loses her job and starts coming round "to make you want to live," exposes her vulnerability. His brother's wife (Mabel Rivera), who has nursed him from the start, feels jealous and possessive.

Bardem's performance is astonishing, not so much in his ability to mimic a wasted body, but by capturing the essence of a lively intelligence. Amenabar, whose previous films (Open Your Eyes, The Others) display a flair for storytelling, is so precise with detail and yet in the scenes of magic realism, when Ramon imagines himself capable of physical expression, remains true to the dream, never imposing emotional hooks to catch the audience.

In the end, the sea is calm and the hardest part is letting go. If love is a gift, it should be given.

Reviewed on: 11 Feb 2005
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True story of a quadriplegic Spanish poet who fights for the right to die.
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Director: Alejandro Amenabar

Writer: Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil

Starring: Javier Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Clara Segura, Joan Dalmau, Alberto Jimenez, Tamar Novas, Francesco Garrido, Jose Maria Pou

Year: 2004

Runtime: 125 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Spain/France/Italy


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