Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed

LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED (Vivir es facil con los ojos cerrados). Starring: Javier Camara, Natalia de Molina, and Francesc Colomer. Directed by David Truera. Rated M (A sex scene, nudity and coarse language). 108 min.

The title of this subtitled Spanish drama comes from the opening line in Verse 1 of the famous song, "Strawberry Fields Forever", sung by The Beatles. The song is a personal homage to John Lennon while he was living in Liverpool. The movie swept the Goya Awards this year, winning Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor, and is Spain's entry for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2015 Academy Awards.

It tells the story of a free-spirited, middle-aged, lonely, high-school bachelor teacher, Antonio (Javier Camara), who is an obsessive Beatles fan. Antonio decides to drive his tiny Fiat to the Spanish Provence of Almeria in search of his hero, John Lennon, who played the part of Private Gripweed in Richard Lester's 1967 black war comedy, "How I Won The War". The film is being shot in Almeria, and Antonio is told that John Lennon is acting in it.

Antonio is so addicted to The Beatles that he uses their songs to teach his students English, and he motivates his students by playing them Beatles music. His students call him "The Fifth Beatle". For Antonio, John Lennon has become the symbol of liberating freedom, which his country desperately needs.The movie is set in 1966 and Franco is still in power, and the events of the film are based on a true story.

In the film, on his way across to find John Lennon, Antonio picks up two young hitch hikers, Juanjo (Francesc Colomer) and Belen (Natalia de Molina). They travel with Antonio, and the trio fulfil the vision of the song "Strawberry Fields" which promises those, who listen to it, possibilities in life, not yet experienced in Franco-driven Spain. Juanjo is a teenager running away from a harsh father, who can't stand his son's new haircut (which is a Beatles one); and Belen is a young pregnant woman, returning home to face a stern  mother after running away from an institution for unmarried mothers in which she was placed. All three are separately looking for freedom in their lives, and they bond together to take advantage of the opportunities placed before them.

The film depicts three people who embark on a road trip across the landscapes of Spain. It  is a gentle movie which seduces the viewer with its quiet charm, but a serious heart beats beneath its surface. The film captures two eras - an era of repression characterised by Franco's deep conservatism, and an era that is reaching out to reflect a country looking for a better, brighter future. For different reasons, the three are trying to escape from the constraints of their past. Despite the seriousness of its underlying concerns, the movie is laced with delightful humour that manages to give its themes a comic touch, and the movie is scripted beautifully to convey its real intent.

The acting by Javier Camara in the role of Antonio is outstanding. He plays the part of a loveable eccentric, who is impossible to dislike. He is a modern Don Quixote, whose enthusiasm influences Juanjo and Belen to make life-changing decisions. In classical Don Quixote style, Antonio is bullied cruelly and treated like a fool by a farm thug before he tells Juanjo and Belen imperiously that his dignity has been preserved. Antonio's personal quest is to find John Lennon "to chat with him" about the lyrics of his songs, and Juango and Belen affectionately stay with Antonio until he achieves his dream.

The movie is directed extraordinary well by the Spanish Director, David Truera, and it has an unobtrusive jazz score, which gently mirrors the film's unfolding drama. The acting of all three leads (Camara, de Molina, and Colomer) is delightful, and the film leaves the viewer in no doubt that all three have chosen a road that puts them on a path to self-discovery.

This is an inspiring road movie with hidden depth, which shows the personal growth of people looking to escape from what is happening around them. Under Truera's controlled and intimate direction, the film masterfully pits the experience of three very likeable human beings pursuing freedom, against the harshness of a repressive regime that is beginning to change. It is a gem of a film not to be missed.

Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for film and Broadcasting

Palace Films

Released October 30th., 2014

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