Javier Barden

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In this film based on a true story, Ramón Sampedro (Javier Barden), a young fisherman from the northwest coast of Spain, is injured in a diving accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down and completely dependent for his care on his older brother and his sister-in-law, who make numerous sacrifices in order to care for him. Twenty-seven years later, in his 50's, Ramón is weary of his life, which he feels is without dignity, and he tries to get legal permission to end it.

His brother is adamantly opposed to euthanasia, but Ramón is comforted and aided in his quest by two women who are drawn into his circle. Julia (Bélen Rueda), a lawyer suffering from a degenerative disease, begins to design a legal case for Ramón but soon falls in love with him (although she seems happily married), and he with her. In a particularly moving scene, Ramón-who of course cannot move--tells Julia that her smell is the beginning of his erotic fantasies about her.

Julia helps him edit and publish a book of his poetry, but then, having agreed to a joint suicide, she mysteriously backs out. Rosa (Lola Dueñas), a young single mother who works in a fish-packing factory and who has had a hard life, also falls in love with Ramón. For some time she tries to change his mind, arguing that his example has inspired her and saved her from a life of despair. Ramón challenges her: "The person who truly loves me will be the one who helps me [commit suicide]."

When Ramón's legal appeal (for the same rights the nondisabled have to end their lives) is lost on a technicality, he seems to have nowhere to turn, but Rosa, converted by her love for Ramón, finally agrees to help him die. He achieves his goal in a videotaped end in which he argues that what he is doing is his right and that no others should be blamed or prosecuted for it, sips poison through a straw, and dies.

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