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"The Sea Inside"

Directed by Alejandro Amenŕbar.
Written by Alejandro Amenŕbar and Mateo Gil. 
Starring Javier Bardem and Bélen Rueda.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  2/27/05


Even though it is subtitled and mostly about a quadriplegic lying in bed, "The Sea Inside" is a really deep, thought-provoking film about the duality of those that are entrenched in what seems like a no-win situation.

The winner for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars on Sunday night, "The Sea Inside" follows the true story of Ramon Sampedro (former Oscar nominee Javier Bardem), crippled in an accident 30 years prior to our meeting him and a strong proponent of euthanasia.  He has hired a lawyer named Julia (Bélen Rueda) who is also the victim of a crippling disease; he needs this lawyer to help him voice his opinions on his wishes to attain the rights to die of his own accord.  Over the course of the film we get to learn much about what happened to Ramon on the fateful day of his accident, as well as what it must be like to wake up every day wanting to not see another sunrise.

Bardem is excellent; in fact, I'm a little surprised that this work didn't score him a second Oscar nomination, he was so brilliant here.  I was really struck by how natural Bardem looks in his environment; the crushing part of the film for me was when Ramon spoke about smiling to mask the pain of his situation; naturally, he is smiling almost all the time during the movie.  Two other performances really stood out for me and gave the film all the nuance it needed:  Rueda, as the lawyer, who just gives you that hint of fragility beneath the surface; hey, it's her job to speak up about the wishes of her client, but during the quiet moments, she seems to truly be mystified by why her client wishes so badly to take his own life.  Also, Lola Duenas is strong as Rosa, a local single mom that becomes more and more interested in Ramon and his wishes as the movie rolls along.  At first, the Rosa character really annoyed me...and, it was fun to become less annoyed with her all film long as we get to know about her past with abusive men and how tough she has it in her situation at home with her kids.

Again, I was truly worried that a 125-minute film that dealt mainly with a quadriplegic that doesn't leave his room was going to have me all sleepy by the end of it (especially when you consider the subtitles), but the pacing of the film and its use of flashbacks keeps it fresh and humming along at a decent pace.  It's a beautiful film to behold, especially during those dream sequences, and even though there are a couple moments where you might lose it emotionally, the filmmakers are good to not make this a sapfest.  Ramon's terminal condition is already tough enough to swallow.

Not great, but "The Sea Inside" was a solid time at the movies and well worth my $9.50.  After seeing him in "Collateral" last year, Bardem just seems to be able to steal a movie out from under you if you are not careful.  I'm excited to see what he does next...

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09