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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Teresa Isasi, © Fine Line Features)

photo caption:
A MATTER OF LIFE OR DEATH: Quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro (Javier Bardem, left) discusses ways of achieving his desired goal of legalized euthanasia for himself with his attorney, who is also his close friend, Julia (Belén Rueda). end caption.

The Sea Inside (Mar adentro): Euthanasia at Issue in Best Foreign Film Oscar Winner

Review by Kam Williams

The Spanish know how to tackle sensitive subject-matter cinematically. In 2003, writer/director Pedro Almodovar was nominated for Best Director and won the Academy Award for Best Original Script for Talk to Her.

The Sea Inside, produced, directed, scored, and co-written by Alejandro Amenabar, received this year's Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The versatile Chilean moviemaker collaborated with Mateo Gil (Vanilla Sky) on the screenplay, adapting it from Cartes Desde El Inferno (Letters from Hell), an autobiography by Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic whose right-to-die case became a cause célèbre in Spain.

The movie chronicles Sampredo's life as a ship mechanic, starting with the tragic diving accident which paralyzed him while still a youth. The story then shifts to his 28-year crusade to legalize euthanasia in order that he be allowed to die with dignity. The movie explores the same theme as that addressed, although less satisfactorily, by Million Dollar Baby.

The Sea Inside stars Javier Bardem, who received an Oscar-nomination in 2001 for Before Night. Bardem's work here is impressive depite the limitations inherent in playing a bed-ridden protagonist who can't move his arms or legs.

The bulk of the film unfolds on a sprawling farm in Galicia while being attended to by his father (Joan Dalmau), brother (Celso Baglio), sister-in-law (Mabel Rivera) and nephew (Tomar Novas). Although his loving, extended family provides support, Ramon repeatedly requests that he be put out of his misery.

Ramon debates his desire to die with two women who are diametrically opposed to euthanasia. One is his lawyer, Julia (Belen Rueda), who sympathizes with his predicament because she herself is suffering from a degenerative disease which threatens to leave her in a vegetative state.

The other, Rosa (Lola Duenas), is equally intent on convincing Ramon that he still has much to live for. An unlikely romantic triangle evolves, resulting in a tender tug-of-war for his brain and his heart.

Ramon never really wavers much in his conviction. However, he does inspire others to appreciate what they have, even if he has long since given up hope. So, besides addressing the obvious question of freedom of choice for the irreversibly ill, The Sea Inside makes statements about the meaning of loyalty, love, fear, justice, morality, relationship, friendship, and life itself.

Javier Bardem rises to the challenge of conveying a full range of emotions from the neck up. Director Amenabar assists a bit via several escapes into magical realism during daydream sequences.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for mature themes. In Spanish, Catalan, and Galician with subtitles. Running time: 125 minutes. Distributor: Fine Line Features.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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