Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed: Innocence Regained

It should be hard not to like writer/director David Trueba's Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed (Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados). Antonio (Javier Cámara) sets off on a quest to meet John Lennon who is making a film in Almería, Spain. It's 1966 but this middle-aged teacher of English and Latin would be an unlikely Beatles fan except that he's a dreamer, but that's another song.

He picks up two hitchhikers, both lost souls like himself: young hairdresser Belén (Natalia de Molina) and sixteen-year-old Juanjo (Francesc Colomer). Speaking of souls, the film is set against the backdrop of Franco's fascist regime, with its all pervasive police and religious controls. We are reminded that Lennon had said that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus".

The journeys of the three central characters typify the rebellious sixties that John symbolised for those looking for a better way, in particular in contesting the authority of church, state and family. Trueba is not preaching but his messages are clear, if gently delivered.

Cámara lives up to the quality you would expect from the lead in Pedro Almodóvar's Talk to Her. His young offsiders give equally controlled, understated performances. They are matched by Ramon Fontserè as Ramón, a bar owner and Rogelio Fernández as his son Bruno who has cerebral palsy.

Of course, the title comes from Lennon's lyrics for Strawberry Fields Forever. The adventures of this unusual triangle are about innocence lost and innocence won. It would be a great story even if it weren't based on Juan Carrion's actual experiences.

Definitely a film for baby boomers seeking to regain some of their lost innocence from the sixties. Various Gen X-Zs, who are given a yardstick to measure how far we've come, may also reflect on the courage needed to bring about change. Here endeth the review.