Ever dreamt you could defy gravity, that you could launch yourself from a window ledge and fly like a bird? How fantastic to be free of our earthly body!

These themes underlie Spanish director Alejandro Amen?r’s outstanding motion picture based upon the life of quadriplegic Ram?ampedro who, after 30 years in bed, petitioned the Spanish courts for permission to be euthanised.

He enlisted the help of the Death With Dignity lobby group who arranged for a lawyer (Bel?Rueda) to represent his euthanasia petition in the courts.

Leading Spanish actor Javier Bardem is transformed from handsome 36-year-old hunk to play the ageing, bed-ridden Ram?Bardem spent days paralysed in bed reading Sampedro’s Letters From Hell.

In place of Bardem’s virility is Sampedro’s resigned soft edge, dry wit, sharp intellect and his strong determination to die.

Amen?r and co-writer Mateo Gil avoid over-sentimentalising the issues, even if they skirt lightly over Sampedro’s court battles.

Instead, The Sea Inside explores the myriad of people and opinions that cluster around the sadly jovial Ram?or whom life is learning to cry with a smile.

His brother (Celso Bugallo) refuses to allow Ram?o die at home, while his devoted sister-in-law Manuela (Mabel Rivera) loyally, lovingly feeds and cleans Ram?

Then there is sidekick nephew Javier who responds to Ram? whistle like a pup.

The Sea Inside brims with exquisite performances, especially the three women in Ram? life.

Talk To Her‘s Lola Duenas is Rosa, a local woman of fragile emotions who visits Ram?ne day in the hope she might talk him out of dying.

They fight but a friendship persists -“ more to cheer up Rosa than Ram? until Manuela becomes jealous of Rosa’s incursion. Mabel Rivera is fantastic as the strong country woman making do with a tough lot.

Spanish TV actor Bel?Rueda is powerful and sexy as Julia, the lawyer who takes on Sampedro’s case.

Julia arrives walking on a cane and it is soon clear that Ram?ccepts her only because she suffers from a debilitating illness.

As they build their case, the connection between them grows into a deep love.

Easily one of the best films of the year so far, The Sea Inside is an absolute beauty that holds the best to the last.

It’s funny, warm and tender, well-deserving of its swag of awards, including the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture and top prizes at the Venice Film Festival and Golden Globes.

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