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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon December 10, 2004
The rule of thumb is that Life is preferable to Death. But, on your mental scale, what value judgement would tip the balance towards the latter? THE SEA INSIDE is a forceful, emotive and sympathetic examination of assisted suicide. It's not a film for those seeking the usual Saturday afternoon pabulum of Hollywood escapism. And for those that believe that opting out of Life is never an option, it will likely be infuriating.

In a Oscar-worthy performance, Javier Bardem plays Ramón Sampedro, the Spanish poet who became a quadriplegic at age 26 when he dove into shallow waters and broke his cervical spine. In THE SEA INSIDE, it's now almost three decades later, and Sampedro is spending the last two years of his life petitioning the conservative Spanish government for the right to die with dignity via an assisted suicide. The film is an extraordinarily well acted piece by all members of the cast.

The family that cares for Ramón 24/7 includes his older brother José (Celso Bugallo), his brother's wife Manuela (Mabel Rivera), his father Germán (Alberto Jimenéz), and his nephew Javi (Tamar Novas). Besides the dedicated Manuela, who loves Ramón like a son, there are three other extraordinary women in his life: Julia (Belén Rueda, in her acting debut), the lawyer who handles Sampedro's legal case and who has a secret of her own, Gené (Clara Segura), the representative of a national right-to-die organization, and Rosa (Lola Dueñas), the single, working mother of two that just stopped in to say hello to the invalid and ends up adoring him. Indeed, the large number of caring females in Sampedro's stunted life yields perhaps the film's only trace of humor. When jealousies simmer among the gentler sex, Ramón discovers that he has women problems.

In emotional intensity, THE SEA INSIDE transcends that other recent award-winning film about assisted suicide, THE BARBARIAN INVASION (2003). At mid-point, in a sequence of devastating power, the camera becomes a window on Sampedro's fantasy that he can leave his bed. At another time, Ramón's bedridden helplessness is contrasted to the virile, active young man he once was through a series of old photographs examined by Julia. And the visual presentation throughout is mated to a dynamite soundtrack (that I'll definitely purchase!).

This production is Spain's entry into the 2004 Academy Award competition for Best Foreign Film. If it doesn't walk away with that golden statue, then I certainly want to see the film that does.

THE SEA INSIDE makes a strong case for voluntary Death with Dignity for those wishing that escape. It's certainly controversial, as evidenced by the Web sites attacking its stance. If you're looking for an intelligent, thought-provoking, sobering experience - I hesitate to use the word "entertainment" - see it as soon as it's released. It will likely remain in the artsy theaters and not go into wide distribution.
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VINE VOICEon March 31, 2005
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2004, The Sea Inside is a fact-based story of Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic man who petitions the Spanish government for his right to die. Without the use of his body for 27 years, Sampedro desires above all else the right to be euthanized. His story is taken on by an association that goes by the name of "Die with Dignity" which is how he has a voice in court.

The story begins as a lawyer comes to Ramón to learn his story. She has taken the case pro bono to get his wish to die granted by the courts. This is the first person we see him encounter that tries to understand him; she is not the last.

Through these meetings we see how truly remarkeable Sampedro really is. We see the devices he has invented to assist him in his situation. We see the poetry his heart has poured out over the years. We are party to conversations in which he explains life and freedom of choice, he talks of a future he hopes not to have. Every person he communicates with is so deeply moved by him; it is humbling to see the effect one man may have on others.

Director Alejandro Amenábar (Open Your Eyes, The Others) brings to life this story of a man enslaved to his body. The movie is set in the house Ramón refuses to leave, though we see incredible landscape shots and are taken on an amazing ride as Sampedro jumps out of his two story window and flies all the way to the beach. Through his eyes we see how he lingers over the blue-green water. To this former sailor, the sea represents that which gave him life and ultimately took it away.

The only thing worse than your son dying before him wanting to. -Joaquín Sampedro (Ramón's father)

This was an absolutely beautiful movie. Try as I may to exercise my vocabulary, I keep ending up with the word "beautiful" to describe The Sea Inside. This heart wrenching tale offers various perspectives on both life and death. If you have ever taken the time to consider either, and even if you have not, this movie will be special to you. And I will warn you that there are a few times in the movie when not crying seems unthinkable. I cannot help the feeling that in seeing this movie in the theater last night I was a part of something important. I look forward to the DVD release on May 17, 2005.
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With his outsize facial features and unremitting soulfulness, Javier Bardem is a supremely adroit actor, who reminds me quite a bit of a mid-century Anthony Quinn in that they share chameleonic abilities and earthy charisma. As he proved with his stunning portrayal of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in 2001's "Before Night Falls", Bardem can bring resonance to a real-life character and imbue him with a palpable humanistic spirit. In this film, he plays quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro, who traveled the world in his youth as a seaman and then suffered a tragic dive off a cliff which left him paralyzed. For thirty years, Sampedro's brother and sister-in-law took care of him on their farm in Galicia, and his one unresolved wish is to die with dignity rather than face another day not being able to move anything more than his head. The controversial issue of euthanasia has been addressed numerous times, most recently in Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby". It continues to be a hot topic stateside, but perhaps because of its Spanish perspective, director/writer Alejandro Amenábar has fashioned a story that seems less issue-oriented and more about how Sampedro infused those around him with a transformative sense of life's possibility. There is something quite profound about this subtly observed irony, and Amenábar, along with co-writer Mateo Gil, seems intent on challenging us to share Sampedro's single-minded perspective while empathizing with the increasing grief his loved ones feel for his approaching loss.

Bardem is a wonder as usual, as he convincingly portrays a man in his mid-fifties who can only show his emotions from the neck up, especially through his large expressive eyes, yet you get a charged sense of the life-force that fed his curiosity about the world and his love of the sea. An excellent make-up job by Jo Allen is only part of it, as he gets deep under the skin of Sampedro. Belén Rueda poignantly plays his soul-mate Julia, the beautiful lawyer who is battling her own serious illness while helping Sampedro prepare his case to challenge the anti-euthanasia laws. She is hired because he believes she will be especially sympathetic to his cause, which proves true to a degree that makes her seriously examine her own fate. There is a lovely fantasy scene when Sampedro gets to his feet, and then the camera takes his perspective of running toward the window and flying out the window across the countryside to meet Julia on the beach where they passionately embrace. This is all done to the accompaniment of Puccini's ''Nessun dorma", and Amenábar miraculously bypasses contrivance to achieve something transcendent. As Rosa, the young single mother who becomes infatuated with Sampedro when she sees him on TV, Lola Dueñas (the nurse from Almodóvar's "Talk to Her") provides an effective common-folk counterpoint to Julia, and the story has us wonder which woman will eventually help Sampedro with the final deed. They are almost yin and yang to Sampedro - Julia is cool and glamorous, while Rosa is talkative and needy. His immediate family is equally torn about Sampedro's decision, and Mabel Rivera stands out as Sampedro's selfless, attentive sister-in-law. Clara Segura also shines as Gené, a pro-choice activist who dances the precipitous line between personal and professional with alternate strokes of alacrity and regret. Credit also needs to go to cinematographer Javier Aguierresarobe, who seems to bathe the movie in subtle lights and colors to match the varying moods of each scene.

The extras on the DVD include a Spanish-language commentary track by Amenábar, which unfortunately has not been translated into English. I suppose it's a marketing reality that the DVD cover (movie poster), as well as the main menu and movie trailer included in the package, all highlight the youthful Bardem from the brief flashback scenes of his pre-accident existence. Regardless, there are three valuable deleted scenes of which I think one, "Julia Changes Her Mind", should have been reinstated to better understand her character's ambiguity toward the end of the film. There is a comprehensive making-of documentary which I found fascinating, in particular, for Bardem's intensive preparation for the role and the touching video footage of the real Sampedro. Amenábar has made a deeply provocative film provided light and gravitas by a searing Bardem. Strongly recommended.
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"The Sea Inside" is the true story of Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic whose petition for the right to kill himself brought his cause to the public eye in Spain in the 1990s. When the movie opens, Ramón (Javier Bardem) has been paralyzed from the neck down for 26 years, the victim of a diving accident in 1968. He lives in his bed, in his brother's home, surrounded by books, music, and one window, taken care of by his sister-in-law Manuela (Mabel Rivera). Ramón writes poetry and receives visitors, but wants to die, as he finds life without dignity intolerable and real life "a false hope, a dream". With the help of Gené (Clara Segura), a tireless woman who works for a right-to-die organization, and a lawyer, Julia (Belén Rueda), whose own degenerative neurological disease makes her sympathetic to his cause, Ramón takes his petition for assisted suicide to court.

The events of the film take place over about 2 years, during which we see Ramón's spirited personality and his helplessness, as well as the impact of his condition on his family. We travel through his imagination and back to his accident. Ramón publishes a book of poetry, while he wages a media campaign to garner support for his petition. The story we see in this film is partially fictionalized. Julia is a composite of several women, and Ramón's nephew Javier is a composite of his numerous nephews and nieces. Gené is a real person, but she was not pregnant during the events of the film. The scene is which Ramón is visited by a priest combines a couple of different incidents with dialogue taken from published debates. The basic true storyline has been preserved, but more license has been taken for thematic and dramatic purposes than I usually find in a biopic.

"The Sea Inside"'s great strengths are Javier Bardem's performance and the way in which director Alejandro Amenábar is able to visually link Ramón's real life to his imagination. As you might expect, the man often lived in his dreams. Bardem is convincing as a man 20 years older than himself -with the aid of good makeup. And his lively, charismatic, but sad performance seem to perfectly convey the real Ramón's personality, as far as I can tell from film clips that I've seen of the real man. The actors who portray Ramón's family all give fine performances, but Mabel Rivera's reserved interpretation is especially impressive. "The Sea Inside" is a little too neatly contrived in places and too melodramatic in others, which I felt were weaknesses. To some degree, this was intentional, as director Amenábar wanted to incorporate the melodramatic and humorous aspects of Ramón's personality into the film. "The Sea Inside" won nearly 40 cinema awards worldwide in 2005. It swept Spain's Goya Awards and took the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It wasn't the best foreign film of 2005, but it's a thoughtful portrait of Ramón Sampedro and his family with an outstanding performance by Javier Bardem.

The DVD (New Line 2005 release): Bonus features include a making-of documentary, an audio commentary, 3 galleries, 3 deleted or alternate scenes, and a DVD-ROM (Windows only). "A Trip to The Sea Inside" (1 hour, 25 minutes) is a way-too-long documentary that traces the making of this film from writing the script, through pre-production, casting, planning, filming, and post-production. There are interviews with cast, crew, and writers, but the most prominently featured interview subjects are director Alejandro Amenábar and producer Fernando Bovaira. I found the information about Javier Bardem preparing for his role the most interesting, but this documentary needed to be edited down to half its length. The "Photo Gallery" contains Ramón's photos from the movie and some on-set stills. The "Storyboard Gallery" is 32 black-and-white drawings for the scene of Ramón's accident. The "Set Design Gallery" contains 17 color drawings. There is a good audio commentary by Alejandro Amenábar that is more informative than the documentary. Amenábar discusses creative and narrative decisions, casting, characters, themes, and the presence of death in his films. The commentary is in Spanish with subtitles. Subtitles are available for the film in English and Spanish.
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THE SEA INSIDE (MAR ADENTRO) is, for this reviewer, simply one of the most powerful films ever made. Director Alejandro Amenabar (with co-writer with Mateo Gil) has created a work of such power and beauty that surely it will capture all of the highest awards for which it is nominated.

Based on the life of Spanish writer Ramon Sampedro, a man who at age 26 suffered a broken neck from a dive into the sea with subsequent quadriplegia, the story is about life and the sanctity of the gift of being a whole person. Sampedro lay for nearly thirty years in a bed, able move only his head, requiring assistance for every bodily function except his richly gifted brain and verbal communication - which he was able to transpose to the written word by means of an ingenious pencil/stick held in his teeth. Having lived the life of a world traveler, a free spirit who chose to squeeze all the beauty of living from his participation in the world, Sampedro finds himself at the mercy of those who attend him and it is his wish to end his life with dignity: he searches for someone who will help him and love him enough to assist his longed for suicide.

The major debate over euthanasia or assisted suicide may be the apparent message of this miraculous film, but in the hands of Amenabar and particularly in the profoundly empathetic and multifaceted performance of Javier Bardem as Ramon, THE SEA INSIDE is far more importantly a paean to the joy of living life to its fullest measure. Ramon, despite his frustrated attempts to convince the courts that he should be allowed to die with dignity, is more concerned with touching the lives and hearts of those with whom he comes into contact. He lives with his older brother Jose (Celso Bugallo) who adamantly opposes Ramon's wishes to die, his caretaker sister-in-law Manuela (Mabel Rivera) who supports him physically and spiritually, his father Joaquin (Joan Dalmau), and his nephew Javi (Tamar Novas). Into this warm home Ramon's pleas for assistance bring Gene (Clara Segura) and Marc (Francesc Garrido) who aid his cause and engage a lawyer Julia (Belen Pueda), herself afflicted with a degenerative disease that leaves her with a partially paralyzed leg. Manuela shows Julia Ramon's poetry and upon reading the poems Julia realizes he must be published - and that she is falling in love with Ramon.

One very simple person (Rosa - played by Lola Duenas) hears about Ramon's plight on a television interview and pledges herself to change Ramon's view of living. She visits him, beings him the simplicity of her heart, cares for him and tries to convince him that he should choose life over death. Ramon's answer to his insight that Rosa is falling in love with him is to inform her that the person who truly loves him will help him exit the world with dignity.

The span of the film takes over a year of the interplay of these people with Ramon's one wish and that wish becomes a cause celebre in Spain, even to the point of Padre Francisco (Jose Maria Pou), himself a quadriplegic, making a house call to present the Church's stance on euthanasia - a discourse separated by too steep stairs that is one of the more comical highlights of the story! After failures in the courts and in convincing his family to assist him, Rosa ultimately comes to Ramon's rescue and it is this final journey that exemplifies the radiance of this film's achievement.

Javier Bardem has become one of the finest, most sensitive, technically brilliant and intelligent actors on the screen today. His performance is nothing short of miraculous: how this actor can create such a compleat character when all he has to use is his facial expression, his eyes, and his eloquent voice goes beyond any expectation a viewer might have. Likewise, the work of the entire cast is not only the best ensemble acting achievable, but each of these gifted actors has created richly faceted performances that are utterly amazing. Here is some of the finest acting you'll likely see in any film from any country.

The cinematography captures both the claustrophobia of Ramon's Galician house and his visions/dreams of taking flight out his window to embrace his beloved sea. The musical score is by Amenabar with a little help from Wagner, Mozart, and Puccini. This is one of those rare films when the audience sits stunned and tearful while the credits roll at the end, not wanting to leave the aura of the experience. There is much to admire and to absorb in this brilliant film. Were there 10 stars to award it, that would be the ranking. Highly recommended. Grady Harp
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This film that deserved with all the possible honors the Prize as Best Foreign Film deals with a delicate and very personal ethic crossroad: Can you decide your lifetime under these awful and painful conditions?

Obviously the omnipresence of the death is a motive of fear and anguish for a great number of human beings. But my personal reflection is this: the death is the last stage of your life, so I think it's better to re formulate the question for another one. The real important aspect is how have you lived? and not focuse exclusively in how you will die. We are in the world for living and doing everything what we can make, according our natural gifts and talents: the rest of the issue has no importance. If you have had the opportunity to follow your bliss what's the problem with dying in an early age?. I consider it's better to live a short life and productive instead a long life and improductive.

So in this point I believe you must respect the personal decision of every person to turn off the light of his private existence under these horrible conditions.

All the ethic considerations seem obvious while you are from the other side of the issue. It is so easy to judge the outer decisions arguing words but Do you think it is enough to talk and only for a just moment to assume his terrible position?.

Amenabar built a supreme film where he presents a huge portrait about the different ethic positions; the beloved brother who denies the final solution arguing his point of view, till his lovely lawyer who will suffer a secure death.

San Pedro is clearer about that issue than many of us. He got and tried to exhibit all the possible arguments and was not heard at all under legal circumstances. The discussion among the priest and Bardem is one the highlight issues of the film.

Javier Bardem at this time is one of the best five actors in the Cinema world. His facial expressions are a real master class for all the acting students and the rest of the audience. His face is a real rainbow which shows all the possible frecuencies in what anima concerns.

What was the unexpainable reason which avoided he was not nominated for the Academy Award by this acting? Because if you argue the theme is delicate I could remember you the Academy Award to Hanks by Philadelphia for instance, or the most recent Prize to Benigni in Life is beautiful and Adrian Brody for the Pianist. Anyway, the past now belongs to the story and this default will never hide the astonishing presence and sublime performance of this talented actor who caught with admirable eloquence the personal tragedy of a sensitive and extraordinary human being.

The rest of the cast worked out to perfection level. There is no any fissure, and the edition and photograph are simply overwhelming.

This is a masterpiece film and being Alejandro Amenábar a very young film maker, it would be risky to affirm this is his masterpiece, but if not it will be one of the three major achievements in his promising career.

An artistic triumph all the way!
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on September 9, 2007
BEYOND 5 stars!

Every once in a while a film comes along that is so powerful in it's message,production,direction,cinematography,soundtrack and ensemble acting that it deserves multiple accolades;such is the 2004 Spanish Award winning THE SEA INSIDE (Mar Adentro)from writer/director/soundtrack composer Alejandro Amenabar whose earlier triumph THE OTHERS was a foreshadowing of great things to come.

THE SEA INSIDE is a tour-de-force in film making.The story of Ramon Sampedro, a man who was a quadriplegic for nearly thirty years and confined to a bed in a room,could have been extremely claustrophobic in the hands of less experienced directors and actors,but Amenabar and Javier Bardem as Ramon take this film,it's message and the lead character way beyond the confines of a bedroom and open it up into a glorious triumph and resiliency of the human will to persevere for freedom of conscience and dignity.Ramon wants to die;this is his fight for the right of choice that hit headlines the world over.Ramon has a most unusual quality to inspire greatness and vitality in others, but wants to end the hell that he experiences daily imprisoned in his lifeless body.This film is not preachy,nor does it become a soapbox for pro choice or pro life.All sides are presented fairly and with much thought and sensitivity.Ultimately, the story is one man's personal desire with the issue of euthanasia and Javier Bardem,who recently impressed in GOYA'S GHOSTS (an English speaking role) shows why he is among the top actors in the world today with his transcendent performance in THE SEA INSIDE.

The film is in Spanish.The English subtitles FLY so get ready to read quickly.There is a documentary on the dvd about the writing of the screenplay with Amenabar.It is informationally quite interesting, but it is filmed like reality T.V.

This is a film that will be viewed often for it's numerous aspects of greatness.Highly recommended purchase for the price.
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If you were told that this story was about a quadriplegic that wants to end his life and the people who want to help or hinder him, you'd probably turn away. But this film is inspiring and life affirming without melodrama or cheesy dialogue. Based on a true story of a Spaniard who has been disabled since a neck injury 30 years prior, Ramon Sampedro (played to perfection by Javier Bardem from "When Night Falls") embarks upon a political journey to end his life legally. Ramon is surrounded by three strong women (his mother, a lover `wanna-be' and a journalist) and a loving family. His insights are thoughtful and beautiful, with director Alejandro Amenabar ("The Others", "Permanent Midnight"), flashing a fantastic style ranging from heartfelt close-ups to wild flying scenes against the backdrop of the Spanish countryside and seaside. Whether one agrees with Ramon's decision is irrelevant to the story, as it is all about celebrating life. The truly human dialogue backed with brilliantly subtle cinematography is refreshing. The only drawback is the ending - not that you guess what happens, but because the film is over and so is the life it so beautifully portrays.
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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2005
I'll watch anything with Javier Bardem. Check him out as Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnabel's "Before Night Falls," or as gangland boss Felix in the recent Michael Mann thriller "Collateral" (the confrontation between Jamie Foxx and Bardem is the movie's best scene (in a film with many of them).

Here in Alejandro Amenábar's "Mar Adentro" (Sea Inside), he ages 30 years to play quadraplegic rights activist Ramón Sampedro. That DVD cover image of a hale and hearty Bardem glancing over his left shoulder? That's about 1/50th of this movie (at most). Bardem spends much of the movie behind an excellent make-up job as a very convincing 50-ish, bed-ridden individual who must convey every meaning with just a slight nuance of facial expression. It's quite a feat.

Amenábar's script brings out the dignity in Sampedro. No surprise given his work in penning 'The Others' and 'Open Your Eyes' (which Cameron Crowe later bollixed up as 'Vanilla Sky'). 'Sea Inside' richly deserves its 2004 Academy Award for best foreign film. Don't miss it.
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on April 16, 2013
Javier Bardem is the special kind of actor that no matter what role he has turns to gold. He puts so much depth into any character. I havent seen him give a bad performance yet. It is not in his vocabulary. There are very few actors out there that can portray a role with such excellence. Kuddos.
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