East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Sea Inside: More youth in Asia than Days of Being Wild

I'd only ever given thought to voluntary euthanasia in cases of terminal illness. In that context, it strikes me as compassion without drawbacks - if you're dying (and of course there would be checks and balances to ensure this,) you should be able to go out on your own terms. But as for the merely disabled, I balk: will they feel pressured to take their lives, to avoid being a burden? What justifies Ramon Sampedro's death but not Kurt Cobain's?

The key to the movie's case isn't any pain that Ramon feels, or even the lost dignity that he keeps refering to (everyone involved goes to great lengths to emphasize this is just how Ramon feels and doesn't apply to all quadriplegics - but if Ramon were not hypocritical, surely he would regard them as undignified as himself?) The key is the twentysomething years Ramon has been suffering, all the time without turning away from his goal. Amenabar's decision not to show the first twenty-six years of this period pares the movie down to a managable size. But it's a cheat - not a cruel one like that other recent suicide movie, but still a cheat.

The movie thus fails, in my view, as pro-euthanasia rhetoric, with the hapless priest (how come Julia's wheelchair can get up the stair, but his can't?) being the crassest miscalculation. Where the movie succeeds is as a study of how sometimes love just ain't enough. Despite his family's devotion, and the attraction of every woman within twenty miles, Ramon still doesn't want to live. The question in the priest's mind and mine wasn't "why?" but "is this possible?" The task of showing that it is falls to Javier Bardem. Need I tell you that he nails it? I'd go into details, but David Edelstein and Ella Taylor say it better than I can.


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