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Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed
Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is a loving tribute to The Beatles' post-1965 introspective period, wrapped around a warmhearted and insightful coming-of-age story. Like The Fab Four's best work, it's an earnest, wistful, and whimsical film with a lot of emotional depth. In a way, it's the flipside to Robert Zemeckis' first film I Wanna Hold Your Hand, which represented the band's early 60s A Hard Day's Night years. That film embraced a tone of chaotic energy found in that period. Meanwhile, even though it's also about Beatles fans going to great lengths to meet their idols, Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is about the inevitability of change, and how frightening yet life-affirming it can be.
The year is 1966, it's mere months before Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band will be released onto an unsuspecting world. Hard core Beatles fan and grade school English teacher Antonio (Javier Camara) finds out that John Lennon is acting in a film being shot in his home country of Spain (Richard Lester's How I Won The War). So, he decides to make his way to the set in order to hopefully meet him.
Antonio is a gentle soul, brought to life by Camara's tender performance, who teaches his students English by having them recite the lyrics to Help. He believes that the lyrics are not as simple as they look, that they are about a lost soul who's tired of the weight of fame, who's looking for a real human connection. That's mainly because Antonio's looking for a human connection as well. He's chronically lonely, and perhaps hopes that meeting Lennon will bring some answers to his life.
Along the way, Antonio picks up Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), a teenage boy who ran away from home to get away from his strict father. He also ends up helping Belen (Natalia de Molina), a young pregnant girl who's anxious about her uncertain future. Juanjo and Belen are lost souls, also looking for answers as they face an uncertain future. Even though Antonio's primary goal is to meet Lennon, he gradually turns into the positive influence that Juanjo and Belen didn't know they craved. In turn, the youngsters decide to help Antonio in any way they can, including coming up with creative ways to crash the movie's set.
Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is an altogether sweet and positive experience, one that doesn't become manipulative in order to extract the last drop of nostalgia from the audience. The three leads offer natural performances and the backdrop of the Spanish coastal countryside creates some breathtaking scenery. The inner conflicts of all of the characters involved are relatable and palpable, but they never veer into melodrama. We expect Antonio to fall into the typical archetype of a wise mentor for the kids, and even though he has a profoundly positive effect on them, he can be rather goofy and delusional at times. His need to meet Lennon is directly connected to his need to find a deeper meaning in his life. So in a way, he's on the same boat as the two lost kids.
The film's climax happily indulges in wishful thinking, but it's not too saccharine, and it doesn't attempt to conveniently solve all of the characters' problems with unearned closure. Writer/director David Trueba understands that the change within the characters is an ongoing journey that will continue well after his film is over.
Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is drenched in enough yellows to make Wes Anderson jealous. The film's warm color palette is due to its nostalgic tone and the fact that it takes place in the coastal Spanish city of Almeria. The muted colors look gorgeous on DVD, without any color bleeding or obvious video noise. This is a very clean standard definition transfer.
Jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny's breezy and understated score for Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed shines on the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track that's offered on the DVD. Just like the film, the audio presentation prefers a calm and introspective approach to a boisterous one; so don't expect your home theatre to rumble.
Deleted Scenes: Three minutes of deleted material. One of the scenes focuses on the politics in Spain at the time, which is an issue that the film mostly avoids.
Pat Metheny: This is a short clip of Metheny working on the score in his studio
We also get a Trailer.
Aided by an assured direction and natural, insightful performances from the main cast, Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed is tailor-made to fill Beatles fans with a pang of nostalgia. It should also be a perfect choice for audiences who are tired of the ironic detachment of modern filmmaking, and are looking for a truly earnest and positive experience.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com