Ramón Sampedro (Javier Bardem) is a Spanish quadriplegic with a desire to end his life. This fact-based film chronicles his struggles to procure this right while ensuring that no one who helps him will later be prosecuted; a decades-long effort. A furtive love affair with Julia (Belén Rueda), the married lawyer who is helping him fight his case (and who also suffers from debilitating strokes), ends when their suicide pact is called off and she returns to her husband. A local woman, Rosa (Lola Dueñas), recently unemployed and lonely, becomes his unlikely hero. She falls in love with him and brings her children to meet him. He doesn’t want to lead her on, as he is still in love with Julia. Eventually, she wins him over to allow her to be his companion, even if there is no love for her in his heart.
The story, which could easily have been very stilted due to the limitations of a film consisting mainly of a man who can’t move and lies in bed all the time, instead is alive with feeling and emotion. Dream sessions in which Ramón flies to the beach, which he can smell but not see from his bed, are spectacular. The colors are super saturated in these scenes and one can almost feel the breeze and smell the ocean. The refusal of Ramón to fall into the trap of self-pity, his willingness to debate with a clergyman who has condemned his desire to commit suicide, and the power of his spirit, make this film powerful and uplifting.
**I am a native Spanish speaker but I do enjoy foreign films in all languages. Don’t let the subtitles dissuade you. If the movie is good, you will eventually be so engrossed with the story that you’ll forget you are reading the dialogue.**