Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) (2004)

The Sea Inside, the 2004 Spanish film starring Javier Bardem as a quadriplegic who pleads his right to die, is a piece of cinematic poetry.

The film covers the last few years of Ramon Sampedro’s life, a fictionalized account of a true story of a man who, in 1998, did succeed in his final task, employing several friends whose complicity in the task could never be proven.

Ramon was paralyzed from the neck down when he dove into shallow water, but was saved by friends just before drowning. That scene plays over and over, so much so that, after you witness Ramon’s life thereafter, you wonder why God or the fates just didn’t let him die then.

We see life as Ramon lives it, in the same bed for the last 26 years, able to talk on the phone or write his own letters or listen to music, but constantly wishing to fly out the window to be with the sea. And to die.

We see the people surrounding him. The sister-in-law who lovingly takes care of him. The nephew who provides all the gadgets he requires when Ramon designs them. His brother, who hates the fact that Ramon’s disability tore him from his life at the sea, and can’t tolerate the idea of his brother dying in his house.

And there’s also Rosa, who heard about Ramon’s plight on T.V., and on impulse comes over to visit him. And his lawyer, Julia, who is also suffering from a denegerative disease and who takes up his legal battles. Ramon tells them, those who love me will help me die. Some can deal with that, and some cannot.

It’s not a film with a preaching attitude, or a happy-ending kind of feeling. This guy is seriously unhappy, and it shows sometimes in his dealings with friends and family. But in the gentle and capable hands of actor Bardem, he has a smile for everyone, even when he’s feeling powerless.

The movie invites us to form our own opinions about assisted suicide, about issues around quality of life. Regardless of your opinion, The Sea Inside speaks beautifully of a man at the end of his life, the choices he makes, and the choices his family and friends allow him to make when the courts fail him.

The Sea Inside won the 2005 Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

Thumb’s up.


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