The Red Right Hand
  www.theredrighthand.co.uk





MAR ADENTRO
(The Sea Inside)
A Life Without Freedom Is Not A Life

Director
Alejandro Amenábar
Starring
Javier Bardem
Belén Rueda
Lola Dueńas
Mabel Rivera

Coming from Alejandro Amenábar, director of The Others, this film is a more unusual step but one that definitely shows the on-screen maturity and exceeding potential that this man possesses. The story follows a paraplegic's battle with the Spanish courts for euthanasia, based on the true events of Ramón Sampedro [Bardem], this is a truly touching piece of cinema that's possibly one of the best films from a South American director - next to Salles' Diarios De Motocicleta.

The key to this film was Javier Bardem, the other actors/actresses were also played extremely well but it was the way in which they interacted with Ramón that brought out their performances. It's somewhat ironic to say but despite Ramón wanting to die he seems to have touched so many lives and shown them the beauty of life. I think one of the reasons for Bardem's performance coming off as such a powerful one is due to the fact that he can't/doesn't rely on ticks or spasms to portray his handicap (except for a slight pinch on the left-hand side of his mouth), that he only has his facial expressions to work with, which have to mask thirty years of frustration and torment. The wry wit and sarcastic jokes that seem so lost on his family pluck the audience's heart-strings and really help you feel a special connection with the character, being allowed to share in his private pessimistic jokes.

When it comes down to it the heart of this story is the question of euthanasia, the characters that grace the screen all seem to have some opinion on it, even the angst-ridden teen, Javier [Tamar Novas] who only wants his uncle to be happy and at ease only realising what this means towards the end of the film. A nice parallel take on the whole concept of living a life 'without dignity' comes from Ramón's lawyer, Julia [Rueda], who has been diagnosed with a degenerative disease and sympathises with Ramón, not simply pitying him as most do. Throughout the film Julia's choices twist as she weighs up life and death, trying desperately to see if life is worth it or if Ramón is right, as I said the final conclusion is an interesting one but that's all I'll say, I don't want to spoil anything.

A scene which may get criticised takes place in the first half of the film as Ramón suddenly starts moving, gets out of bed, runs down the hall, out the window and flies to the beach. The way I've worded it makes it sound somewhat ridiculous, almost like a Helen Keller soliloquy but it's really not, it is in fact one of the most powerful moments in the film for not only showing you how his imagination works but also how saddened you are when you see that he's still lying in bed, simply imagining it all. Amenábar not only directing this piece, he also composed the score, granted he didn't write Nessun Dorma, but having it there was simply genius, you genuinely feel uplifted (as Ramón must do) as the camera sores at great speeds over the tree-tops, climaxing at first sight of the sea.

The reason this review may seem shorter than the others is simply because I find it hard to say anything about this film, due to the fact that after a Rugby injury in Huddersfield I was told I could never play again, that my rib would press against my lung and that I may need a cane later in life. I too went through the whole stage of thinking 'My life is over now. Why can't it just end? There's no dignity to it now. I have nothing.' and all I can say is that this film, along with Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, allowed me to relate to the characters on-screen and I felt an understanding of what Ramón went through, similar to the character Julia. For this, you have my apologies, all I can say is that this film is absolutely tremendous and that it comes with my highest recommendations.

Release Date:
11 February 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Ramón starts describing to Julia how the cliff-diving accident happened, she tapes this on her dictaphone and as she begins to play it back we are shown a mixture of Ramón lying in bed listening across the hall, Julia looking through a box of Ramón's photographs that he took travelling the world before the accident and the visions of him lying face down in the water, dying. This all comes together so beautifully and you begin to understand why Ramón thinks the way he does after a glimpse of the life he lead.

Notable Characters:
José [Celso Bugallo] is Ramón's older brother and he's the only one in the household who will not listen to Ramón, believing that he's throwing his 'life' away. Bugallo does such a wonderful job of portraying a frightened man with no control over his younger brother's thoughts or actions, all he wants is for him to be better or (selfishly?) for Ramón to just accept his condition.

Highlighted Quote:
"When you can't escape and you depend on others, you learn to cry by smiling."

In A Few Words:
"Sublime viewing"

Total Score:
10/10


Matthew Stogdon