Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: David Trueba
Stars: Javier Camara, Francesc Colomer, Natalia Molina.
The crowd pleasing Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed was a big winner at Spain’s Goya Awards, and it’s easy to see why. Chosen as the opening night film for the 2014 Spanish Film Festival, this is a charming, enjoyable and feel good road trip comedy which takes its title from the opening lyric of the Beatles’ song Strawberry Fields Forever.
Loosely based on a true story, the film is set in 1966. Spain is abuzz with excitement because John Lennon has come to the region of Almeida to shoot Richard Lester’s movie How I Won The War. In the 60s it seemed that Hollywood had come to Almeira, as the Oscar winning classic Lawrence Of Arabia had been shot there, as well as the classic spaghetti westerns from Sergio Leone.
Antonio San Roman (veteran Spanish actor Javier Camara, a regular collaborator with Pedro Alomodovar) is a down-trodden Latin teacher who uses Beatles songs to teach English to his students. Obsessed with the Beatles, he is keen to meet his hero and talk to John and try and convince him to put the lyrics of their songs in the album notes. Up until then the Beatles had not printed their song lyrics on their albums.
Along the way he picks up a couple of young runaways – the pregnant Belen (Natalia Molina) an outcast who is drifting without any real purpose, and 16-year-old Juanjo (Francesc Colomer, from the coming of age drama Black Bread, etc) who has run away from home following a disagreement with his parents over his future and the length of his hair.
Once in Almeira the trio set up residence in a local bar/hotel and forge a close bond. During the sojourn in this beautiful location the three learn a lot about each other and themselves, and this journey becomes a life changing experience for them. The film explores many familiar tropes of the road movie genre as well as universal themes like friendship, adolescence, loneliness, family.
The film is directed with a leisurely and unhurried pace by David Trueba, the younger brother of director Fernando Trueba, and his sensitive and compassionate touch allows the audience to engage with these characters and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It has been beautifully shot by cinematographer Daniel Vilar (Syriana, etc). But there is an undercurrent of darker themes lying beneath the surface, as Trueba suggests what life was like in Spain under the repressive and tyrannical Franco regime. The times they were a changing, even in Spain.
Camara delivers a wonderfully nuanced and spirited performace as the endearing, affable and optimistic Antonio. Both Molina and Colomer are good in their roles as well.