Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Spain/France/Italy, 2004. Sogepaq, Sogecine, Himenóptero, Union Générale Cinématographique, Eyescreen S.r.l., Televisión Española, Canal+, Televisión de Galicia S.A., Filmanova, Eurimages, Ministerio de Cultura. Screenplay by Alejandro Amenabar, Mateo Gil. Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe. Produced by Alejandro Amenabar, Fernando Bovaira. Music by Alejandro Amenabar. Production Design by Benjamin Fernandez. Costume Design by Sonia Grande. Film Editing by Alejandro Amenabar. Academy Awards 2004. Golden Globe Awards 2004. Independent Spirit Awards 2004. National Board of Review Awards 2004. Toronto International Film Festival 2004.
Spanish auteur Alejandro Amenabar, creator of the impeccable thrillers Open Your Eyes (the basis for the Tom Cruise vehicle Vanilla Sky) and The Others, continues to astonish with this heartrending biography of euthanasia advocate Ramon Sampedro. Sampedro (Javier Bardem) was injured in a swimming accident at a young age and spent nearly thirty years paralyzed, lying immobile from the neck down in his family’s home, the whole time fighting for the legal right to die with dignity as was his wish. When the film begins, he strikes up a friendship with his newly appointed lawyer (Belén Rueda), herself suffering from a degenerative disease, and she reviews his story while developing a deep affinity for him. As Sampedro’s story becomes popular, he also makes the acquaintance of a divorcee (Talk To Her‘s Lola Dueñas) who finds in him the most kindred spirit of her life. How he brings joy to others while fighting so hard to make his own wish of final rest come to pass makes for a poetic masterpiece of complex emotions and painfully beautiful remembrances. Bardem brings his skillful combination of personal gusto and quiet elegance to the part, giving the most robust performance of the year and coming across so powerfully despite having nothing else to work with except his face. He leads an equally impressive cast in an unforgettable film about love and the impossible sacrifices we are often asked to make in its name.