For some reason, a cinematic trend exists where there are multiple films based on true stories about people confined to beds or other limiting situations, and their inspiring stories of overcoming their predicaments. There's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly which looked at locked-in syndrome, and the dude learning to communicate solely by blinking; with The Sessions, a bed-ridden poet crippled by polio fights to lose his virginity, and, then there is this film, which looks at the nearly thirty year struggle of Ramon Sampedro to fight for his right to die with dignity after being paralyzed thanks to a diving accident.
For all I know, there could be more of these films. And of these three, this one is probably my least favorite.
Don't get me wrong, this is a good movie, and I really enjoyed it, but I found it to be somewhat underwhelming, and a bit hard to get invested in, or at least compared to the other two I mentioned.
I did like though, that even though the film tackles a controversial subject (euthanasia), Ramon is selfish about it in that he's fighting only for HIS personal right to die with dignity instead of becoming the champion for a cause. Well, I mean, his efforts could be looked at as the basis for a larger campaign, but it's basically just a personal crusade.
The argument for both sides of the issue is addressed, and even some of Ramon's family and close associates don't necessarily agree with him, yet they still look out for him and help care for him, and that's really something.
There are some moments that are truly visually striking, but, unlike The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, this one is less focused on innovative ways to portray the situation, and is primarily a showcase for acting.
And this is where the film is the strongest. Javier Bardem gives easily one of his best performances as Ramon. He spends most of the time in old man makeup and in a bed, but that's no easy task as he's not really able to move on his own besides his head and face a little bit. It's definitely a strong and inspiring performance, but the supporting cast are also quite strong, though this is clearly Bardem's film.
Given the subject matter, you'd think this would be a pretty heavy and serious film, and yeah, for the most part it is. However, it's not completely depressing, and there's a fair amount of humor, which surprised me. Of course, someone in Ramon's situation probably needs to develop some sort of sense of humor to cope, so I shouldn't be that surprised. But still, it was unexpected just how wickedly (and morbidly) funny this guy is.
The film is slightly preachy, but overall let's the viewer decide for themselves what is supposedly right or wrong. Granted, the film does ultimately take a side, but that's not really the point. This is primarily a personal journey, and a reflection of trying to make the most of life despite certain circumstances, even if that means spending that time trying to die because that's what personally seems like the best course of action.