Ever since a diving accident left 26-year-old poet Ramón Sampedro (Bardem) a quadriplegic confined to his bed, the once-active fisherman-poet has relied wholly on his friends and family to care for him. Believing his life lacks dignity and is an intolerable burden on others, he wages a controversial campaign for the right to die, with the help of activist lawyer Julia (Rueda).
Based on the true story of the real-life Spanish poet, this heartwrenching and deeply inspiring drama won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and propelled Bardem to international fame. The actor's soulful, charismatic performance certainly deserves all the plaudits, but Rueda is also a commanding presence, playing the legal adviser who questions her own position on assisted suicide when Ramón — still stubbornly insisting death would be a welcome reprieve — falls in love with her. Amenabar ("The Others") handles the philosophical jousting with consummate taste and skill, especially in a witty, sardonic exchange between Ramón and a fellow quadriplegic priest. Challenging but hopeful, "The Sea Inside" is a gorgeous film about what makes life worth living.