Film Review: Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed (★★★)

postcard_frontOh, The Beatles. Our fanatical world of pop culture wouldn’t be what it is without the phenomenon of Beatlemania. Their popularity was unprecedented and still remains relevant today. So much so that David Trueba felt inspired to make the film Living is Easy with Eyes Closed, a true story about a Spanish teacher’s quest to meet John Lennon.

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is set in 1960s Spain, where our main protagonist Antonio (Javier Cámara) works as a high school English/Latin teacher. A major fan of The Beatles, he even uses their song lyrics in his teachings. One day he learns of John Lennon’s decision to start an acting career, which will bring him to Spain for a film shoot. Excited by the news, he plans a road trip to the set in Almeria in order to meet his hero. Along the way, he picks up a pair of young runaways named Belen (Natalia de Molina) and Juanjo (Francesc Colomer) and they form a bond based on the ideals of freedom that The Beatles promoted.

The social/political context of the film is important in understanding the significance of the characters’ actions. The story takes place during the dictatorial Franco regime, a very conservative period in Spain. The rigid structure was therefore oppressive towards more liberal-minded individuals, which included the film’s central trio. As a result, their authority-defying acts were a form of rebellion. For Belen, the trip was an escape from a forced reclusive life in a convent (due to a pregnancy). For Juanjo, the trip afforded an opportunity to get away from his domineering policeman father and his insistence that he cut his hair (a Beatles-esque moptop). With regards to Antonio, his stalker-ish quest was an unconscious affront to the country’s sense of law and order.

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is not a political film however, so their rebellion is a quiet one. It’s more along the lines of your traditional “road trip” movie. Yet even that description seems to overstate the film’s ambitions. Trueba’s screenplay is unusually slight, never conforming to the pronounced episodic format of similar films. As such, the film is incredibly delicate, to the point where it threatens to feel inconsequential. There’s an end goal to the narrative (i.e. meeting John Lennon), but it takes a slightly mundane straight road to get there.
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Despite this narrative simplicity, the film never becomes boring. It accomplishes this with a pleasant charm that never subsides. It has warm cinematography, authentic production and costume design, a sparse but calming score and immensely likable characters. Admittedly, Antonio never seems like more than a mere concept of a character, but Cámara’s performance is engaging enough that you’re willing to go on this ride with him. Overall, it’s quite simply one of the most relaxing films I’ve seen.

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is a true feel-good movie about the pursuit of happiness and a lovely tribute to the legacy of John Lennon and The Beatles. It’s laid-back approach may frustrate some viewers, but there’s a beauty in its simplicity. I’d comfortably recommend it.

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is the Spanish submission for the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Click here for reviews of other official submissions.