A Voyage to the Sea
By Catherine Krummey
Spanish writer-director-composer Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside (Mar adentro) tells the heartbreaking true story of quadripelgic sailor-poet Ramon Sampedro's battle to end his life. Ramon lives with his father, his older brother Jose, his sister-in-law and caretaker Manuela and his nephew Javi, short for Javier. While his father, sister-in-law and nephew seem to support Ramon, Jose is adamantly against Ramon ending his life.
Sea starts with Ramon being flirtatious with Gene, his friend and assistant. Gene introduces Ramon to Julia, a lawyer willing to bring Ramon's request to end his life in "dignity" to court. A deep connection forms between Ramon and Julia, who is also suffering from a debilitating disease. When Ramon is interviewed on TV for his tragic plea, Rosa, a lonely single mother of two, enters his life, somewhat obsessively, but lovingly nonetheless. When Julia comes to visit Ramon for the second time, Manuela shows Julia Ramon's poetry. Julia suggests that they publish the poetry in a book to create publicity, which Ramon becomes very apprehensive about and then becomes despondent. A few minutes later, Julia has a stroke and collapses down a small section of stairs.
Ramon writes to Julia in the hospital, telling her he's changed his mind about publishing the poetry. They write back-and-forth while Julia recovers, developing their relationship. One day Gene visits Ramon and brings a "surprise," Julia. Ramon is excited and tells Julia of a fantasy he has about her. The fantasy ends when Ramon snaps out of it to Julia kissing him, his first kiss in 27 years. Julia has also decided that her life will not end in "dignity" unless she does something about it. So, she tells Ramon that no matter what the court decides, she will end his life if he wants her to and also end her own as soon as the book is published. She says she'll bring the first copy of the book to him and it will all end on the same day. When the book is published, Ramon receives the first copy by mail.
Ramon is played beautifully by Javier Bardem (The Dancer Upstairs). Co-starring with Bardem are Belen Rueda (Julia), Lola Duenas (Rosa), Mabel Rivera (Manuela), Celso Bugallo (Jose), Clara Segura (Gene), Tamar Novas (Javi) and Joan Dalmau (Ramon's father). In addition to directing Sea, Amenabar (The Others) co-wrote the script with Mateo Gil, composed the hauntingly beautiful score and co-produced the film. The three leading ladies, Rueda, Duenas and Rivera, all give spectacular performances as Ramon's feminine entourage. Novas gives a great performance as the teenage Javi, a surrogate son to Ramon, and Dalmau, as Ramon's father, gives an emotionally raw performance not through his words, but through his facial expressions and actions (or lack thereof).
The Sea Inside is a cinematic masterpiece. A truly touching story.
© Catherine Krummey