Friday, September 27, 2013
The Sea Inside
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 2/3/10 w/ Additional Edits.
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar and written by Amenabar and Mateo Gil, Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside) is the true story about a Spanish mechanic named Ramon Sampedro who became paralyzed following a diving accident as he wishes to die. The film is an exploration of a man trying to fight the right to die in the way he wanted with the help of family and friends in a 28-year campaign. With Javier Bardem playing the role of Sampedro, the film also stars Belen Rueda, Lola Duenos, and Mabel Rivera. Mar Adentro is a beautiful yet harrowing film from Alejandro Amenabar.
It’s the late 1990s in Spain as a lawyer named Julia (Belen Rueda) is called upon by Gene` (Clara Segura) to meet Ramon Sampedro. Sampedro was a Spanish mechanic who one day, nearly died in the late 60s in a diving accident that left him paralyzed. Julia talks with Sampedro while getting to know his family including his sister-in-law/caregiver Manuela (Mabel River), his older brother Jose (Celso Bugallo), nephew Javier (Tamar Novas), and father Joaquin (Joan Dalmau). Gene` runs an organization to support euthanasia in Spain as she and her husband Marc (Francesc Garrido) is a lawyer that is also helping out. With Julia exploring Ramon’s demands to end his life but with dignity. He also reveals the things he wished he could still do without being in a paraplegic state that shows more reasons.
Hearing about the news is a woman named Rosa (Lola Duenos) who visits Ramon as she learns about his plight though isn’t sure about his reasons to die. Rosa makes visits and help things around while Julia writes a book about Ramon as during one of her visits, she collapses. It is revealed that she is dying of a disease where she was walking with a cane but now has to be on a wheelchair. With Julia now more understanding and why Ramon chose her, she takes part on his cause while a paraplegic priest in Padre Francisco (Jose Maria Pou) is making arguments against Ramon. With the Sampedro family divided over Ramon’s decision, Francisco makes a visit to the family home as the two with the help of one of Francisco’s associates (Alberto Amarilla) as their discussion comes to a standstill with Manuela angry at Padre Francisco.
With Julia’s illness worsening and Ramon having to go to a city to make his case. Everyone including Rosa helps Ramon to make his plea while he is dealing with other issues including Rosa’s own conflicted feelings about euthanasia. With Ramon’s story now published for the world to read, he makes a plan in case the court doesn’t go with his demands with the help of Rosa and his family as Ramon hopes to go out with the way he wants to leave.
Euthanasia is a subject that definitely will divide audiences on whether it should happen or not. Yet, the film isn’t entirely about euthanasia but rather a man wanting to die with dignity along with the people around him trying to deal with his wishes. Yet, affected by Ramon’s wishes to die are two women in the center of it in Julia and Rosa. Julia is a woman who is plagued by a disease that would affect her in which she would fully understand with Ramon’s wish to die. Rosa is the other side as a woman, though living through lots of hardship, is more of an optimist who is trying to understand why Ramon wants to die. Alejandro Amenabar and Mateo Gill both create a mesmerizing script with some bits of humor as the film is mostly dramatic in its tone along with a wonderful structure to tell the story.
Amenabar’s direction is definitely superb with its images of the Spanish beaches and countryside landscapes to give audiences an idea of Ramon’s own fantasy in a life where he isn’t a paraplegic. Notably some amazing scenery and sequences where the camera is flying over the beaches while the compositions of Ramon’s diving accident are shown with a sense of beauty and terror. More intimate scenes at Ramon’s home and the home of other characters are done with simple shots and camera work as Amenabar’s direction is definitely spellbinding. Even as he does his own editing to create some intense dramatic effects for the film’s highly-emotional scenes and some amazing fantasy sequences.
Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe does spectacular work with the film’s photography that is filled with lush, colorful look of the exterior scenes of the Spanish beaches and towns while at night, they’re shot with low lights. Many of the film’s interior scenes in day and night are shot with very little light to present something intimate and dark to complement the emotions of Ramon in what he’s feeling about as the cinematography is brilliant. Production designer/art director Benjamin Fernandez along with set decorator Emilio Ardura does excellent work on the film’s set designs in the home of Ramon and the farm along with the posh home of Julia and Rosa’s own simple apartment.
Costume designer Sonia Grande does some fine work with the film’s clothing which is mostly simple stuff including some pregnant-like clothing for Carla Segura’s character. Special make-up design by Jo Allen on Javier Bardem’s character in how he ages from a young man to an old man is truly magnificent in its look and feel. Sound work by editor Maria Steinberg and mixer Richard Steinberg is excellent for its atmosphere and tone for some of the film’s fantasy sequences. The music by Alejandro Amenabar himself is a mixture of huge, orchestral pieces along with Scottish-inspired music from bagpipes is wonderful. Even as he uses a soundtrack filled with pieces by Richard Wagner, Mozart, and Beethoven along with some opera pieces and traditional Spanish music.
The casting by Luis San Narciso is excellent for a slew of memorable performances including small roles from Alberto Jimenez as Julia’s husband, Federico Perez Rey as a driver, Alberto Amarilla as one of Padre Francisco’s assistants, and Francesc Garrido as Marc, a lawyer who helps plea for Ramon’s case. Jose Maria Pou is great as Padre Francisco, a paraplegic priest who tries to challenge Ramon’s wishes only to make himself look bad in front of Ramon’s family. Clara Segura is excellent as Gene`, an organizer who helps Ramon in his cause while Joan Dalmau is very good as Ramon’s father who reveals where the diving incident happened. Tamar Novas is also good as Ramon’s late teenage nephew who has a hard time doing duties for Ramon only to appreciate him later on. Celso Bugallo is brilliant as Jose, Ramon’s older brother who objects to Ramon’s wishes as he feels on how it would impact the family.
Mabel Rivera is wonderful as Manuela, Ramon’s sister-in-law and caregiver who tries to deal with all that is going on around her while being truly loyal to Ramon. Lola Duenos is superb as Rosa, a single mother who is awestruck by Ramon’s story as she becomes a devoted helper despite her conflict towards euthanasia. Belen Rueda is excellent as Julia, a lawyer who suddenly becomes ill as she starts to understand why Ramon would want to die as she also writes his story.
Finally, there’s Javier Bardem in one of his greatest performances of his career. Though he’s lying on a bed most of the time just using his head to move and carry a stick with his mouth. It’s definitely a lively performance from the famed Spanish actor who brings a lot of humor and drama to his character. Even as he is walking and moving his body in fantasy sequences. It’s definitely a marvel to watch him play a fascinating character as it truly one of Bardem’s finest roles.
Mar Adentro is an exhilarating yet mesmerizing film from Alejandro Amenabar featuring a superb performance from Javier Bardem. Audiences who love inspiring dramas without overly-sentimental messages or heavy-handed issues will enjoy this. Even as it definitely one of the best films to come from Spain for the past twenty years as it is also Amenabar’s best work as a director so far. In the end, Mar Adentro is a magnificent film from Alejandro Amenabar.
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