Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Detroit Free Press:
If ever there was a film that deserved to get the proverbial bump from Oscar, this is it. Rarely has any film so focused on death felt so vibrantly alive.
Bardem accomplishes something extraordinary. Eschewing easy sympathy, he creates a real person, real pain.
Ultimately, this is one man's story, told with great empathy, and Amenabar deserves great credit for lifting the film above the soap-opera sentimentality into which it could have easily fallen.
Ebert & Roeper:
Javier Bardem is the heart of this movie and he gives a great, screen-filling performance.
Bardem's Ramon is such a vital life force, it's all the more bittersweet to watch him fight to leave a world that would be much emptier and sadder without him in it.
For whatever reason, it's an injustice that Bardem was not nominated for best actor.
It's such a repetitive and thinly constructed piece of filmmaking that the scope and complexity of Sampedro's case are turned to porridge.
Amenabar (the inventive Spaniard who made The Others) promotes dignity, love, and inspiration with such insistence that there's relatively little chance to feel Ramon Sampedro's unendurable pain.
[Amenabar] is an exquisitely expressive filmmaker, and it's this, together with Bardem's stunningly calibrated performance, that gives this painterly blue-green movie its haunting beauty.
Amenabar shows us the aching depth of Sampedro's loss and makes his most eloquent statement on behalf of a man who only wanted control of his destiny.
Bardem, who continues to make a good case that he is among a handful of the best screen actors alive, is totally transformed.
It's still just a soap opera, wrapped around an argument. And it's one we've heard half-a-dozen times before.
New York Daily News:
Based on a true story, the movie has abundant humor and uplift -- but it's a heartbreaker of extraordinary dimension.
New York Times:
The Sea Inside, the story of a quadriplegic activist fighting for the right to die, struggles to transcend the disease-of-the-week genre to which it belongs.
Amenabar maintains a low-key approach that preserves the film's emotional integrity while still making a powerful statement.
The movie invites us to decide if we are pleased or not. I agree with Ramon that, in the last analysis, the decision should be his to make: to be or not to be.
What could have been a preachy biopic becomes poetry in the hands of the gifted director and writer and editor and composer Alejandro Amenabar.
There's a combination of fatalism and hard-edged humor at work in The Sea Inside that you can imagine Irish writers would feel right at home with.
Globe and Mail:
Never once does this film sacrifice its moral ideas or complexity of character on the cheap altar of sentimentality.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Javier Bardem, the virile and charismatic Spanish actor, is capable of turning on the charisma even working only from the neck up. What is alarming is realizing that the rest of the movie he's in is paralyzed as well.
It's a potent blend of emotional and cerebral filmmaking anchored by what may be the year's most impressive performance by the supremely talented Bardem.
Director Alejandro Amenabar sidesteps legal polemics, but oddly doesn't aim for unflinching realism either, only hinting at the messy regimens that would underscore Ramon's claims of his condition's indignity.
Despite a score by the director himself designed expressly to nudge viewers in the direction of catharsis, I never really felt anything.
Amenabar avoids passion and mess, but he hits his lesser mark -- plain dignity.