Alejandro Amenabar's "The Sea Inside" is the film that "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" was crying out to be...it is a film that celebrates life, embraces passion, envelopes the human spirit and dignifies all of it with the inherent dignity and birthright of choosing one's journey and path amidst it all.
The true story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who fought a 30-year battle for the right to end his own life, "The Sea Inside" flows through Sampedro's relationships with two women...Julia, his attorney, who embraces his cause and his fight and Rosa, a local woman who desperately clings to the hope of convincing him that life is worth living. The irony of Sampedro's battle is that in fighting for his own right to die he fostered empowerment, hope and passion in the lives of these two women and many others.
Javier Bardem is a revelation as Sampedro, bringing to life the multi-layered emotions and experiences of a man with so much life who so desperately wishes to end it. Bardem inhabits Sampedro completely, down to his Galician accent, his movements, his abilities and his disabilities. It is a performance that this year's likely Oscar winner Jamie Foxx could only wish to offer. While Foxx acts like Ray Charles in "Ray," Bardem quite literally becomes Sampedro in "The Sea Inside." It is a gross injustice that this performance did not receive an Oscar nomination.
Every aspect of "The Sea Inside" manifests Amenabar's obvious respect and passion for Sampedro's long battle. Much has been made of the multiple roles of Clint Eastwood for his wonderful film "Million Dollar Baby." Amenabar himself has also scored this incredible film, and the score itself is nothing short of remarkable. It is more than an accompaniment to the film...it is a true companion to "The Sea Inside."
Stellar production design, breathtaking cinematography and attention to the most minute detail help to make "The Sea Inside" visually hypnotic. Add to all of these factors, the tremendous performances of the supporting cast including Mabel Rivera as Sampedro's sister-in-law and Lola Duenas as Rosa. Perhaps my only issue with the film lies in the weaker performance of Belen Rueda as Julia, and her questionable motivations that diluted the hypnotic presence of Sampedro. The film sort of toys with a "love story," but never fully commits...it's as if we are being hit over the head with Sampedro is full of life and passion and seductiveness...yet, in reality, the story and the performance of Bardem was enough to convey this truth...the "love story" wasn't needed and was developed so thinly that the surfaceness of it felt out of place in such a deep, powerful film.
In a miraculous year for foreign films, "The Sea Inside" stands above all of them with its beauty, wonder, intellect and spirit. Javier Bardem gives the performance of the year and barely has to lift a finger to do it. If I could, this paraplegic would give "The Sea Inside" a standing ovation!