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When I describe the plot of The Sea Inside to someone, I can see their eyes glaze over and then they say, "Why would I want to see a depressing movie like that?" Well, ok, The Sea Inside is the story of a man, paralyzed in a diving accident, who spends the next three decades living in one room while his family sees to his every need. He finally decides that he doesn't want to live this way and tries to get permission from the courts in Spain to kill himself. This film is based on the true life story of Ramón Sampedro who is played in the movie by Javier Bardem. It is Sampedro in real life and Bardem playing him on the screen that make this movie about a suicidal quadriplegic into an uplifting experience. Sampedro wrote poetry, painted, and wrote an autobiography on which the film is based. He was so full of life that when you see the movie, you want him to keep living and not to do what he wants to do.
The Sea Inside has a great director and a great cast. It is in Spanish with subtitles. The director is Alejandro Amenábar, best known to North American audiences for The Others starring Nicole Kidman. In addition, to Bardem, the cast includes Sampedro's father, brother, sister-in-law and nephew who care for him, a lawyer (Belén Rueda) who takes his case but then falls in love with Sampedro, and a local woman (Lola Dueñas) who befriends Sampedro. All of these characters must deal with Sampedro's wish to die. Some fight him, some help him, some, like his aged father, cannot understand why it is all happening. But it is heartbreaking for all of them. Other than Bardem (Before Night Falls,The Dancer Upstairs), the cast was all new to me. They are amazing, particularly Rueda who plays the lawyer who understands Sampedro better than anyone else because she too is dying.
This film won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Film. It certainly deserved that. It should have been nominated for Best Picture also. Because so few people have seen The Sea Inside, it seems to have avoided the debate about euthanasia that centered on another big film from last year that I won't name in case you still haven't seen it. The Sea Inside is a sad film but it is also a beautiful film and Javier Bardem's performance is one of the best of the year. Go see it.