The Sea Inside / Mar Adentro (PG)

Written by Mateo Gil and Alejandro Amenábar, Directed by Alejandro Amenábar
Screening at FACT from 11th February - 3rd March 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

What is love? What is the meaning of life? Should people be able to choose the time and manner of their own death? These enormous questions and more are posed and then left hanging in mid air by the director of The Others. Though it has impressed the Oscar judges, The Sea Inside seems like quite a pale imitation of a genuinely heroic story.

Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) lay in bed for some twenty-eight years, trapped in a kind of living death by a diving accident that left him paralysed from the neck down. He kept his mind, his spirit and his imagination, but wanted to end his life ‘with dignity’ rather than hang on wishing for happiness that seemed literally out of his reach. With euthanasia illegal in Spain, he did battle with the legal system and the Catholic Church, whilst painstakingly writing poetry that would reach beyond his bedroom and his lifetime.

Despite some beautifully-constructed dream sequences and Bardem’s impressive use of the limited number of muscles at his disposal, I found The Sea Inside only occasionally affecting. The film is – as the well-worn saying goes – ‘based on a true story’, but unfortunately certain aspects ring hollow, as though they were added to make the story of a quadriplegic more palatable for the movie-going audience. Perhaps the sheer force of Sampedro’s charm did make two quite glamorous women fall in love with him, but it if did then there was far more to him than meets the eye here. In all likelihood, Sampedro’s poetry tells his story far better than a film crew ever could.