The Sea Inside (PG)
Not yet rated
Time Out saysRamón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) wants to die. He’s not a depressive; indeed, his world-view’s pretty positive. Literally, however, it’s also terribly restricted: for nearly three decades, since an accident left him a quadriplegic, he’s been confined to his bed, with just books and the sight of the Galician hills outside his window to stimulate his fertile but frustrated imagination. He’s tired of immobility, of being a burden to sister-in-law Manuela (Mabel Rivera) and her family, and an object of pity to others; he’s even more tired of the Spanish authorities, whose refusal to allow him an assisted suicide means he can’t attain the dignity in death he feels he’s denied in life. Maybe lawyer Julia (Belén Rueda) can help; certainly she seems more usefully objective than adoring local Rosa (Lola Dueñas), who mostly tries to persuade Ramón to carry on.
Amenábar’s fine multi-award-winner recreates a real-life case famous in Spain not only because of the Galician ex-sailor’s battles against government and church, but also because of his published memoirs. For international audiences the main attraction will surely be the hugely engaging, very expressive performance of a near- unrecognisable Bardem. More than anything else, it’s his unflashy expertise that does justice to Sampedro and his cause. Though the script, direction and other performances are all sensitive, assured and respectful, the camera pyrotechnics, the hackneyed hints of the hero’s irresistibility to women, and the overall button-pushing slickness ensure that, were it not for Bardem, this would be a superior ‘uplifting’ weepie, with the manipulative limitations that entails. Rueda, for example, is a tad too lovely, down to her picturesque perspiring; and while the film’s full of neat details about Galician life, it’s so keen to tap tears it seldom transcends stock types. Still, it’s a polished, thought-provoking, poignant melodrama, and Bardem is superb.
Fri Feb 11, 2005