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Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed

Maybe it sounds a little twee, but then again, that's what The Beatles were about.
By Tom Clift
October 27, 2014
By Tom Clift
October 27, 2014

'Help!' 'Come Together.' 'All You Need Is Love.' Songs and lyrics that have influenced countless people around the world. Young and old. Hip and square. At the height of The Beatles' popularity, John Lennon declared that the band was bigger than Jesus. For the three lost souls at the centre of Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed, his words might as well have been gospel.

Taking its title from the opening verse of the Fab Four's psychedelic ballad 'Strawberry Fields Forever', this uplifting Spanish road movie takes place in 1966, at a time when the country was still under the thumb of the fascist General Franco. Javier Camara plays Antonio, a middle-aged English teacher and diehard Beatlemaniac who, after learning that Lennon is in Spain for a film shoot, makes it mission to meet the man himself.

Shortly after hitting the road, Antonio picks up a pair of hitchhikers, both of whom want nothing more than to leave their pasts behind. Pretty young Belen (Natalia de Molina) is three months pregnant and has fled the monastery where she was sent to give birth to her fatherless child. Starry-eyed Juanjo (Francesc Colomer) is a teenager with long hair and an artistic streak. He too is running away, from the demands of his domineering father.

All three actors do excellent work, their underdog characters all but impossible not to like. Camara, in particular, is perfectly cast as Antonio, an eternal optimist and nice-guy who remains steadfast in his belief he will get the chance to shake his hero's hand. The interplay between the three unlikely travelling companions is funny and disarming — and while the stakes of the film may not be particularly high, you can't help but feel invested in the journey.

The politics of the era are confined mostly to the background. Franco and his conservative dictatorship can be felt whenever someone turns on the radio, blaring dour Catholic masses rather than music. The film's overwhelming vibe is one of positivity and acceptance. As such, writer-director David Trueba treats the regime like the bullies that they were, doomed to be defeated by a belief in something more.

Maybe that sounds a little twee, but then again, that's what The Beatles were about. Living Is Easy captures the spirit of the band — their energy, their idealism, and the hope that they inspired. It's a shame the film contains next to none of their actual music, presumably because it's so exorbitantly expensive to license. No matter. Life, as they say, goes on.

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