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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.25%
Just Average: 12.5%
Pretty Crappy: 9.38%
Sucks: 1.56%

5 reviews, 34 user ratings

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Sea Inside, The
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by Robert Flaxman

"I'm more worried about the adults. *rimshot*"
2 stars

Have you ever been arguing with someone and it seems like their side of the argument mostly consists of “nuh-uh!” over and over again? If so, you may already be prepared to watch The Sea Inside, a film that steps into one of the most controversial debates of modern times and refuses to waste time defending its viewpoint.

The film follows the last years of the life of Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem), a Spanish quadriplegic who fought for his right to euthanasia. One presumes that the film believes in Sampedro’s right to die, but it believes in it so blindly that it won’t even offer up an honest debate with the opposing side. Everyone in the film opposed to Sampedro’s wishes is painted as obnoxious or belligerent, while Sampedro himself is a saint who only begins to lose his temper when taking on his detractors.

Whether or not you agree with Sampedro, a debate so charged with passion on both sides deserves to be engaged on more levels than it is here. As Ramón himself takes pains to note, though, he is not fighting to set a precedent, but merely for his own right to die. Perhaps, then, it is all right that the debate is not met fully; instead, we’ll settle for a nuanced portrait of a man who made a complicated decision.

But do we get that either? No, we don’t. Set only in the last three years or so of Sampedro’s life, the film opens with a Ramón who is determined to die and never wavers from that path. There is no real suggestion of how he came to feel this way, as though it is practically taken for granted that anyone in such a state would obviously want to die. The film provides its own counterexample in the quadriplegic priest who visits Ramón at one point, but he is shouted down as being judgmental and basically derided as a messenger of the Church. (The Church takes quite a beating in The Sea Inside, as one of Sampedro’s lawyers argues that the only reason euthanasia is illegal is because of religious laws that have managed to keep a foothold in what claims to be a secular nation.)

Sampedro’s thirty-year journey from paralysis to death is shortchanged by the film; The Sea Inside opens with the arrival of new legal counsel for Ramón, but the supposed courtroom battle barely even exists. Sure, it’s a true story and it’s not surprising that a country where so many people are Catholic would keep denying Sampedro’s attempts, but if such a big deal is being made about his thirty-year struggle, why isn’t there more struggling?

The real frustration emerging from the film, though, is how little we get about Sampedro, who he is, who he was. Bardem’s performance is good, but he is only given so much to work with. Sampedro avoids questions about his early life and seems only too happy to talk to other people about their problems. The most we see is a brief flashback to the accident, with Ramón explaining that he feels he should have died that day. It’s a small moment in a big film, though, and it doesn’t go far enough. Oddly, much of the rest of The Sea Inside seems fairly positive – Ramón enjoys (or at least appears to enjoy) writing and inventing things, and engages himself in exhilarating fantasies of flight. At times it almost seems like director Alejandro Amenábar has secretly made a pro-life film, though that’s doubtful.

The final push over the cliff is the woman who ends up helping Sampedro in his quest – painted by the film as an obsessive fan, she tries to convince him to live, but is shouted down just as everyone else is. Her response is to insinuate herself into Sampedro’s life, eventually declaring she loves him and deciding to help him even though she has at no previous point hinted at wanting to, because she just feels that that’s what you do if you love someone. It’s here where the thesis really gets muddy. The portrayal of this woman in the film is so horrible that if it came out that Amenábar had actually intended the film to be pro-life in some ways, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. But if the film never wavers from its pro-Ramón-death stance, this entire plot is just creepy, unsettling, and almost makes Sampedro out to be something of a Svengali. Again – this may indeed be exactly how things happened, but if so, I would question if this is really a story worth telling.

It isn’t hard to sympathize with Ramón Sampedro’s plight, but it’s not quite as easy as The Sea Inside seems to think it is. Simple display isn’t enough, especially in the absence of much serious debate or character depth. The story behind the film had promise, but there’s never enough meat on the bones – for a film that supposedly depicts a man’s struggle for his own freedom, we don’t learn much about the struggle and, ultimately, even less about the man.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10625&reviewer=385
originally posted: 12/19/05 22:51:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/18/09 NANA MAGHRADZE Splendid script and Breathtaking performance 5 stars
1/07/09 mr.mike Bardem in a virtuoso performance. 4 stars
11/28/08 brian Euthenasia? No, middle-aged in Europe. 4 stars
5/20/07 fools♫gold No film that is this thoughtfully entertaining seeks for an Oscar! 5 stars
8/12/05 Lily Moving , romantic, and funny. 4 stars
7/20/05 Chris Great movie, great acting from Bardem 5 stars
7/03/05 Jackie moving, inspiring, not to be missed 5 stars
6/11/05 B. Patrick remarkable 5 stars
4/29/05 jcjs wonderul..saw one similar a couple years ago but i think i liked this one more, both nice 5 stars
1/31/05 eva 14 goyas, globo de oro,leon de plata...falta el Oscar. es la pelicula del año!. 5 stars
1/29/05 Carrie Hubbard I didn't feel it was Oscar Worthy, but not a bad movie. 4 stars
1/27/05 Tricky that's a masterpiece. One of the best films of the year. Brilliant in all aspects 5 stars
12/30/04 Ziggy Impresionante, read Sampedro's book 5 stars
12/23/04 Maurice Feller Delicious and sensitive movie 5 stars
12/18/04 fan-bardem Wonderful movie.Bardem is the best! 5 stars
12/06/04 ana un obra maestra.Poetica,magnifica musica,grandes actuaciones,fotografia.Ries y Lloras. 5 stars
12/04/04 Mary The best film of the year-. 5 stars
12/03/04 david Bardem the best actoy of year 5 stars
11/27/04 Mikey One of the best films i've ever seen 5 stars
11/20/04 nick kalokasides Disappointed, seeking for Oscars but completely flat 3 stars
11/19/04 me horrible 5 stars
11/19/04 I NOTHING TO SAY 5 stars
11/19/04 JAKE THE BEST 5 stars
11/16/04 Susan Great film 5 stars
11/13/04 Ataraxia The film of the year 5 stars
11/12/04 David I'ts beautiful, perfect 5 stars
10/26/04 Patricia Absolutamente excepcional 5 stars
10/26/04 JOhn Waterloo Incredible performance, amazong script, timeless story 5 stars
10/23/04 ana Maravillosa pelicula. Bardem esta genial. 5 stars
10/20/04 Mavi Interesting topic:euthanasia is well planned and good acting of Javier Bardem 5 stars
10/17/04 Slicker So Beautiful 5 stars
9/19/04 denny films don't get much more beautiful than this - emotionally, intellectually and beauty 5 stars
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  DVD: 17-May-2005



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