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I often wonder why Hollywood still has not moved on from remaking movies. I guess it’s the same reason we haven’t moved on from the combustion engine—making money. Alejandro Amenabar is probably now most famous for his Nicole Kidman vehicle, The Others, but before that he did the fantastic Abre Los Ojos. Literally translated as Open Your Eyes, it gave us a brilliant and clever psychological story and possibly Penelope Cruz’s best performance to date. None of that really matters though, because as soon as Vanilla Sky came out, remaking it with the same story, script and even one of the same actors (Cruz), the original became somewhat redundant. After all, why would we want to watch a bunch of fairly unknown people speak Spanish in a low budget production when we could watch Tom Cruise grin his way through a glossy Hollywood ‘interpretation’? Well, much as Vanilla Sky looked very good and Cruise did quite a good job, the original is simply so much better and, basically, so much more original. After a brief hiatus, Amenabar has returned to directing to bring us this movie, Mar AdentroThe Sea Inside.

Sea Inside, The
Film
Ramon Sampedro has spent most of his life paralysed from the neck down. After nearly a quarter of a century lying in his own bed in his own house, being tended to by a group of family and friends, he wants to end it all. He can no longer live like this; he never could, and in a last ditch hope he appeals to the Church and the State to end what is left of his life. He wants their sanction but without it, he still has his friends and family to do the job. Employing a lawyer to defend and publicise his cause, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by people who want him to live. Rosa, a radio DJ and single mother who finds his warm heart and open ears a great source of release and Julia, the married lawyer whose own life is not so different from Ramon’s.

A powerful and moving tale of life and death, told almost entirely from the single bedroom that Ramon is restricted to, The Sea Inside is amazing—made even more so by the fact that it is based on a true story. It seems so simple a concept but this right-to-die saga is compelling from start to finish. The story evolves in a naturally intriguing way, with Ramon regaling his adventurous teen years up to the accident that left him like this and drawing the viewer into the proceedings as much as the characters get drawn into Ramon’s life.

Sea Inside, The
Ramon’s interesting and magnetic character is largely thanks to the qualities of the star that plays him, Javier Bardem. He’s done some superb other movies—including the unusual Live Flesh—and here he is on top form, engrossing and captivating throughout. And by the end of it, you not only feel for his right to die with dignity but you also feel that he has so much to offer you can understand why nobody wants to let him go. The supporting cast are also fantastic—Belen Rueda as the initially cold lawyer Julia, whose heart is melted by Ramon and Lola Duenas as Rosa, the discontented DJ who yearns for a man to love her. They—and in fact all of the cast—are perfectly chosen and utterly convincing. It is a superb, well-filmed, warm and rich movie, with an excellent cast and a compelling story. I just hope they don’t remake it because there is nothing that I would like to change about it.

Video
Presented in a broad 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer, The Sea Inside looks simply fantastic. Deep and rich, with superb detail throughout, there is very little to criticise—some minor softness and light grain but nothing significant to interfere with your viewing pleasure. There is no sign of any digital artefacting—no edge enhancement, and no noticeable print damage. The colour scheme is remarkably broad and luscious considering the restrictions of the tale, with deep and solid blacks to boot. This transfer makes the film look as fabulous as the story deserves.

Sea Inside, The
Audio
There are two tracks but the main one, in much the same way as the transfer, is simply superb. In its original Spanish language, this Dolby Digital 5.1 effort presents the movie at its best, with the all-important dialogue at the forefront coming through the fronts and centre. The score gives the surrounds a piece of the action, even pulling the LFE in for the fun. Sure there aren’t that many effects—as you would only expect from a drama like this—but those that occur, like the crashing of the waves, are fantastically well represented. The Dolby 2.0 effort is pretty similar, except restricted to a limited array, thus making it significantly inferior. We get fixed English subtitles which are extremely effective and never in the least bit confusing, a lot better than many of the Hong Kong release subtitles that I have come across recently.

Extras
First up we get a commentary with the director himself, Alejandro Amenabar. Talking twenty-to-the-dozen, he divulges every conceivable detail about the production, from its references to his other work, like Abre Los Ojos, to his more subtle symbolism mainly including the sea. His speech can, in fact, get a little irritating considering that it is like a non-stop machine-gun rattle for two whole hours. But if you liked the film and want to learn more about how it came about, this tells you pretty-much everything.

Sea Inside, The
'A Trip to the Sea Inside' is an eighty-five minute behind the scenes documentary. It is practically a film unto itself and is certainly a lesson in DVD documentary making for all those production companies that think a five minute extended trailer pumped full of advertising fluff will suffice. Here we practically go through the whole voyage with Amenabar, watching as he charts his journey from pre to post-production. He talks about being prompted to take on a thriller as his next project but being drawn towards this instead, and we get some interesting footage of the real Ramon, finding out just the lengths Amenabar and his star Bardem went to keep the tale accurate and respectful. If you want to not only learn more the production but also about the brave hero at the centre of it all—Ramon—then this is the place to start.

There are also three deleted scenes, two of which are between the lawyer Julia and her husband, and a third which explains who Ramon dedicated his biography to—his mother. None of them were particularly consequential, and I can understand why they did not want the film to exceed the two hour marker by too much.

Finally we get three different stills galleries which take a look at the set design, the story and the movie itself, along with a trailer for the main feature.

Sea Inside, The
Overall
The Sea Inside is everything you would expect from a faithful, mesmerising and worthy tale of a man desperate to die. Based on a true story, it is moving from start to finish and well worth your time. The transfer is immaculate and the main audio track is fantastic. That, along with a multitude of significantly good—and utterly comprehensive—extra features, makes this a compelling purchase. Please, at least rent it now—if not buy it outright—before they remake it.


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