'The Sea Inside': Outstanding supporting cast help to lift flawed Right to Die drama
Alejandro Amenábar's The Sea Inside often verges on melodrama, featuring as its centerpiece a showy performance by Javier Bardem as a tetraplegic man eager to end his life “with dignity.” Its not inconsiderable flaws notwithstanding – including a simplistic “right to die” debate – this real-life-inspired drama is in and of itself both compelling and touching enough to merit a look; but what makes The Sea Inside a must-see are the superb performances of those in Bardem's periphery.
The story revolves around Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem), a middle-aged man who has been bed-ridden and dependent on the care of others since a diving accident in his early 20s. (Hence the original Spanish title “Into the Sea.”) Yearning for freedom from his mostly immobile body, Sampedro hires an attorney (Belén Rueda) to fight for his right to legally terminate his own life. The Spanish government, however, is none too willing to sanction euthanasia.
Javier Bardem looks the part
Thanks to an excellent make-up job, 2004 European Film Award and the 2004 Venice Film Festival Best Actor winner Javier Bardem looks just right for the part of Sampedro. Unfortunately, as has often happened in his other movies (Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men is an exception), Bardem's performance frequently calls attention to itself in a manner that detracts from his characterization. So much so, that Sampedro's final scene – the dramatic climax of The Sea Inside – comes across as unintentionally humorous.
Alejandro Amenábar should have brought Bardem down a few notches, but the director-coscreenwriter opted to milk his film's inherent drama as much as he could. In fact, Amenábar was the composer of The Sea Inside's at times overbearing score.
Excellent supporting cast
On the other hand, The Sea Inside boasts excellent production values, including Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography, while its supporting cast is generally first-rate.
Particularly impressive are Belén Rueda as Sampedro's attorney, a youngish woman suffering from a degenerative disease; Lola Dueñas as a troubled woman who befriends Sampedro; and Mabel Rivera, splendid as the tetraplegic man's stern but passionately devoted sister-in-law.
Goya Awards record
The Sea Inside won a total of 14 Goya Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress (Lola Dueñas), Best Supporting Actress (Mabel Rivera), Best Supporting Actor (Celso Bugallo, as Sampedro's brother), and Best Screenplay (Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil). It remains the top Goya Award-winning film to date.
The Sea Inside / Mar adentro (2004).
Dir.: Alejandro Amenábar.
Scr.: Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil.
Cast: Javier Bardem. Belén Rueda. Lola Dueñas. Mabel Rivera. Celso Bugallo. Joan Dalmau. Tamar Novas. Clara Segura. Alberto Jiménez. Francesc Garrido. Josep Maria Pou. Alberto Amarilla. Andrea Occhipinti.
'The Sea Inside' Oscar win
Alejandro Amenábar's The Sea Inside was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one. Surprisingly, Javier Bardem was bypassed.
That same year, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, at least in part another Right to Die melodrama featuring a tetraplegic character, took home Academy Awards in the Best Picture and Best Director categories. Million Dollar Baby stars Eastwood, Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank, and Best Supporting Actor winner Morgan Freeman.
The Sea Inside cast info via the IMDb.
Director Alejandro Amenábar, Belén Rueda, and Javier Bardem The Sea Inside images: Sogepaq.