The Sea Inside - DVD cover

The Sea Inside

Country: Spain, France and Italy
Release Date: September 3, 2004
Genre(s): Drama
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Cast: Javier Bardem, Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Clara Segura ...
Awards: Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film; Golden Globe Awards: Best Foreign Language Film; Goya Awards: Best Film; Film Critics Circle of Australia: Best Foreign Language Film; Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Foreign Language Film.

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The Sea Inside

The Sea Inside - Javier Bardem and Belen RuedaThe Sea Inside (Spanish: Mar adentro) is a 2004 film by the Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar. It is based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem), a Spanish ship mechanic left quadriplegic after a diving accident. Sampedro fought a 29-year campaign in support of euthanasia and his right to end his own life. He was not able to get the court to rule in his favor, but he did end his life (after drinking potassium cyanide).


This is the life story of Spaniard Ramón Sampedro, who fought a 29-year campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity. The film explores Ramón’s relationships with two women: Julia, a lawyer suffering from Cadasil syndrome, who supports his cause, and Rosa, a local woman who wants to convince him that life is worth living. Through the gift of his love, these two women are inspired to accomplish things they never previously thought possible. Despite his wish to die, Ramón taught everyone he encountered the meaning, value and preciousness of life. Though he could not move himself, he had an uncanny ability to move others.


  • Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Cinema Writers Circle: Best Actor; Best Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe; Best New Artist: Belén Rueda; Best Score: Alejandro Amenábar;  Best Supporting Actress: Lola Dueñas.
  • European Film Awards: Best Actor: Javier Bardem;  Best Director: Alejandro Amenábar.
  • Film Critics Circle of Australia: Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Golden Globe Awards: Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Goya Awards: Best Actor: Javier Bardem; Best Actress: Lola Dueñas; Best Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe; Best Director: Alejandro Amenábar; Best Film; Best Hair and Makeup : Jo Allen, Ana López Puigcerver, Mara Collazo and Manolo García; Best New Actor: Tamar Novas; Best New Actress: Belén Rueda; Best Original Score: Alejandro Amenábar; Best Production Design: Benjamín Fernández; Best Production Supervision: Emiliano Otegui; Best Screenplay – Original: Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil; Best Sound: Juan Ferro, Alfonso Raposo, María Steinberg and Ricardo Steinberg; Best Supporting Actor: Celso Bugallo; Best Supporting Actress: Mabel Rivera.
  • Independent Spirit Awards: Best Foreign Film.
  • Satellite Awards: Best Foreign Film.
  • Spanish Music Awards:  Best Score: Alejandro Amenábar.
  • Venice Film Festival: Grand Special Jury Prize: Alejandro Amenábar; Volpi Cup Best Actor : Javier Bardem; Best International Film;

Data Sheet

Directed by: Alejandro Amenábar
Produced by: Alejandro Amenábar
Written by: Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil
Cast: Javier Bardem, Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, Mabel Rivera, Celso Bugallo, Clara Segura, Joan Dalmau, Alberto Jiménez, Tamar Novas
Release date: September 3, 2004
Running time: 125 minutes
Country: Spain,  France and Italy
Language: Spanish, Galician and Catalan review

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2004, The Sea Inside is a life-affirming film about a man who wishes to die. That may seem like a massive contradiction, but in the hands of director Alejandro Amenábar (Open Your Eyes, The Others) and actor Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls), this fact-based Spanish drama concerns the final days of Ramón Sampedro, the quadriplegic poet who waged a controversial campaign for his right to die. He was denied this right for 30 years, and ultimately arranged for his own assisted suicide, but this remarkable film–and Bardem’s keenly intelligent performance–examines the hotly-debated issue of assisted suicide with admirable depth and humanity, just as Sampedro did until his death in 1998. For Sampedro, death was preferable to severe paralysis (he even refused to use a wheelchair), but the film does not suggest a “disposable” attitude toward disability. Instead, it’s a thoughtful meditation on life and love as gifts to be cherished, and a challenging drama that begs each viewer to examine their own personal beliefs about what makes life worth living. You may not agree with Sampedro and his ultimate denial of life, but The Sea Inside will urge you to ponder how you would react under similar circumstances, and that makes it a profoundly meaningful film. –Jeff Shannon

From The New Yorker
The director Alejandro Amenábar’s follow-up to his big American hit (“The Others”) is a Spanish-language film-the true-life story of Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic who led a campaign in favor of his right to die. As Sampedro, Javier Bardem gives a small miracle of a performance. Confined to his bed, unable to move, Bardem has an uncanny ability to express mystery and resilience. The movie centers on Sampedro’s loving family and the two women who try to change his life (one supports his euthanasia, the other doesn’t). The dialogue is, at times, poetic, and there’s a moving, somnambulistic feel to the film-it slowly drifts asleep. -Bruce Diones
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker


The ultimate opting out
The rule of thumb is that Life is preferable to Death. But, on your mental scale, what value judgement would tip the balance towards the latter? THE SEA INSIDE is a forceful, emotive and sympathetic examination of assisted suicide. It’s not a film for those seeking the usual Saturday afternoon pabulum of Hollywood escapism. And for those that believe that opting out of Life is never an option, it will likely be infuriating.

In a Oscar-worthy performance, Javier Bardem plays Ramón Sampedro, the Spanish poet who became a quadriplegic at age 26 when he dove into shallow waters and broke his cervical spine. In THE SEA INSIDE, it’s now almost three decades later, and Sampedro is spending the last two years of his life petitioning the conservative Spanish government for the right to die with dignity via an assisted suicide. The film is an extraordinarily well acted piece by all members of the cast.

The family that cares for Ramón 24/7 includes his older brother José (Celso Bugallo), his brother’s wife Manuela (Mabel Rivera), his father Germán (Alberto Jimenéz), and his nephew Javi (Tamar Novas). Besides the dedicated Manuela, who loves Ramón like a son, there are three other extraordinary women in his life: Julia (Belén Rueda, in her acting debut), the lawyer who handles Sampedro’s legal case and who has a secret of her own, Gené (Clara Segura), the representative of a national right-to-die organization, and Rosa (Lola Dueñas), the single, working mother of two that just stopped in to say hello to the invalid and ends up adoring him. Indeed, the large number of caring females in Sampedro’s stunted life yields perhaps the film’s only trace of humor. When jealousies simmer among the gentler sex, Ramón discovers that he has women problems.

In emotional intensity, THE SEA INSIDE transcends that other recent award-winning film about assisted suicide, THE BARBARIAN INVASION (2003). At mid-point, in a sequence of devastating power, the camera becomes a window on Sampedro’s fantasy that he can leave his bed. At another time, Ramón’s bedridden helplessness is contrasted to the virile, active young man he once was through a series of old photographs examined by Julia. And the visual presentation throughout is mated to a dynamite soundtrack (that I’ll definitely purchase!).

This production is Spain’s entry into the 2004 Academy Award competition for Best Foreign Film. If it doesn’t walk away with that golden statue, then I certainly want to see the film that does.

THE SEA INSIDE makes a strong case for voluntary Death with Dignity for those wishing that escape. It’s certainly controversial, as evidenced by the Web sites attacking its stance. If you’re looking for an intelligent, thought-provoking, sobering experience – I hesitate to use the word “entertainment” – see it as soon as it’s released. It will likely remain in the artsy theaters and not go into wide distribution.

Great film.
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2004, The Sea Inside is a fact-based story of Ramón Sampedro, a quadriplegic man who petitions the Spanish government for his right to die. Without the use of his body for 27 years, Sampedro desires above all else the right to be euthanized. His story is taken on by an association that goes by the name of “Die with Dignity” which is how he has a voice in court.

The story begins as a lawyer comes to Ramón to learn his story. She has taken the case pro bono to get his wish to die granted by the courts. This is the first person we see him encounter that tries to understand him; she is not the last.

Through these meetings we see how truly remarkeable Sampedro really is. We see the devices he has invented to assist him in his situation. We see the poetry his heart has poured out over the years. We are party to conversations in which he explains life and freedom of choice, he talks of a future he hopes not to have. Every person he communicates with is so deeply moved by him; it is humbling to see the effect one man may have on others.

Director Alejandro Amenábar (Open Your Eyes, The Others) brings to life this story of a man enslaved to his body. The movie is set in the house Ramón refuses to leave, though we see incredible landscape shots and are taken on an amazing ride as Sampedro jumps out of his two story window and flies all the way to the beach. Through his eyes we see how he lingers over the blue-green water. To this former sailor, the sea represents that which gave him life and ultimately took it away.

The only thing worse than your son dying before you…is him wanting to. -Joaquín Sampedro (Ramón’s father)

This was an absolutely beautiful movie. Try as I may to exercise my vocabulary, I keep ending up with the word “beautiful” to describe The Sea Inside. This heart wrenching tale offers various perspectives on both life and death. If you have ever taken the time to consider either, and even if you have not, this movie will be special to you. And I will warn you that there are a few times in the movie when not crying seems unthinkable. I cannot help the feeling that in seeing this movie in the theater last night I was a part of something important. I look forward to the DVD release on May 17, 2005.

Another Knockout Bardem Performance Ignites Euthanasia Film
With his outsize facial features and unremitting soulfulness, Javier Bardem is a supremely adroit actor, who reminds me quite a bit of a mid-century Anthony Quinn in that they share chameleonic abilities and earthy charisma. As he proved with his stunning portrayal of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in 2001′s “Before Night Falls”, Bardem can bring resonance to a real-life character and imbue him with a palpable humanistic spirit. In this film, he plays quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro, who traveled the world in his youth as a seaman and then suffered a tragic dive off a cliff which left him paralyzed. For thirty years, Sampedro’s brother and sister-in-law took care of him on their farm in Galicia, and his one unresolved wish is to die with dignity rather than face another day not being able to move anything more than his head. The controversial issue of euthanasia has been addressed numerous times, most recently in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby”. It continues to be a hot topic stateside, but perhaps because of its Spanish perspective, director/writer Alejandro Amenábar has fashioned a story that seems less issue-oriented and more about how Sampedro infused those around him with a transformative sense of life’s possibility. There is something quite profound about this subtly observed irony, and Amenábar, along with co-writer Mateo Gil, seems intent on challenging us to share Sampedro’s single-minded perspective while empathizing with the increasing grief his loved ones feel for his approaching loss.

Bardem is a wonder as usual, as he convincingly portrays a man in his mid-fifties who can only show his emotions from the neck up, especially through his large expressive eyes, yet you get a charged sense of the life-force that fed his curiosity about the world and his love of the sea. An excellent make-up job by Jo Allen is only part of it, as he gets deep under the skin of Sampedro. Belén Rueda poignantly plays his soul-mate Julia, the beautiful lawyer who is battling her own serious illness while helping Sampedro prepare his case to challenge the anti-euthanasia laws. She is hired because he believes she will be especially sympathetic to his cause, which proves true to a degree that makes her seriously examine her own fate. There is a lovely fantasy scene when Sampedro gets to his feet, and then the camera takes his perspective of running toward the window and flying out the window across the countryside to meet Julia on the beach where they passionately embrace. This is all done to the accompaniment of Puccini’s ”Nessun dorma”, and Amenábar miraculously bypasses contrivance to achieve something transcendent. As Rosa, the young single mother who becomes infatuated with Sampedro when she sees him on TV, Lola Dueñas (the nurse from Almodóvar’s “Talk to Her”) provides an effective common-folk counterpoint to Julia, and the story has us wonder which woman will eventually help Sampedro with the final deed. They are almost yin and yang to Sampedro – Julia is cool and glamorous, while Rosa is talkative and needy. His immediate family is equally torn about Sampedro’s decision, and Mabel Rivera stands out as Sampedro’s selfless, attentive sister-in-law. Clara Segura also shines as Gené, a pro-choice activist who dances the precipitous line between personal and professional with alternate strokes of alacrity and regret. Credit also needs to go to cinematographer Javier Aguierresarobe, who seems to bathe the movie in subtle lights and colors to match the varying moods of each scene.

The extras on the DVD include a Spanish-language commentary track by Amenábar, which unfortunately has not been translated into English. I suppose it’s a marketing reality that the DVD cover (movie poster), as well as the main menu and movie trailer included in the package, all highlight the youthful Bardem from the brief flashback scenes of his pre-accident existence. Regardless, there are three valuable deleted scenes of which I think one, “Julia Changes Her Mind”, should have been reinstated to better understand her character’s ambiguity toward the end of the film. There is a comprehensive making-of documentary which I found fascinating, in particular, for Bardem’s intensive preparation for the role and the touching video footage of the real Sampedro. Amenábar has made a deeply provocative film provided light and gravitas by a searing Bardem. Strongly recommended.

The Sea Inside, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings


The Sea Inside
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The Sea Inside
The Sea Inside (Spanish: Mar adentro) is a 2004 film by the Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar. It is based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem), a Spanish ship mechanic left quadriplegic after a diving accident. Sampedro fought a 29-year campaign in support of euthanasia...
Posted 04 Feb 2011

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