Oscar-winning 'Sea Inside' causes waves of emotion

By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Rating: 9/10

The winner of this year's "Best Foreign Language Film" Oscar proves itself to be worthy of such an award.

"The Sea Inside" is a moving film about a quadriplegic man who struggles with the legal system in Spain over his right to die - specifically, his right to have someone assist him in his death. The film is based on a real man, Ramón Sampedro, whose struggle spanned over twenty years and into the 1990s.

Is it more than mere coincidence that the winners for "Best Foreign Language Film" and "Best Picture" Oscars this year were both about assisted suicide? Not since Dr. Kevorkian has the issue gotten so much attention, it seems.

In many ways, "The Sea Inside" surpasses "Million Dollar Baby" as a film - in writing, direction, acting, and overall storytelling. Perhaps this is because "The Sea Inside" is based on real events. Or because Clint Eastwood is an evil cyborg. But more importantly, "The Sea Inside" shows more grit and passion for right to die issues, showing all sides and focusing more on the inner turmoil for the individual being assisted, not the individual doing the assisting.

The film opens on Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) telling his new lawyer that he wants to die and that he has wanted to die since his accident over 20 years ago. The film moves through time at a steady pace, but certainly does not move quickly. The emphasis for this movie is not really on time, but on change. Maybe this was a conscious choice to emphasize that for someone who wants to die, time seems limitless.

"The Sea Inside" defines its voice through the exploration of the different people in Ramón's life: his sister-in-law and caretaker, his brother, his nephew, his father, his friends and his love interests. Their stance on assisted suicide builds the framework for the film and a better understanding of Ramón's situation and stance.

Their presence also brings up a very important question that the filmmakers really drove home: Why does someone surrounded by so much love and support still want to end his life? We never get an answer.

The movie begins and ends exactly as anyone would expect it to. It is how the filmmakers get from point A to point B that makes the film remarkable.

Javier Bardem is a monumental talent. I would imagine it is difficult playing someone who is quadriplegic, but to portray a real life person in such a controversial movie only compounds the difficulty. And Bardem does it with grace, dignity and virtuosity.

"The Sea Inside" is an elegant film. It does not shove a particular agenda down the audience's collective throat or force an emotional response. It feels genuine and meaningful. It is the intersection of politics and art and deserves all praise that it has received.