out of Five
Running time: 108
Emotionally engaging and laugh-out-loud funny, Living Is Easy is an utterly delightful Spanish comedy with a sharply written script, strong location work and a wonderful central performance from Javier Camera.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by David Trueba (the younger brother of Belle Epoque's Fernando), Living is Easy with Eyes Closed is based on a true story and stars Javier Camera as Antonio, a Spanish English teacher who uses Beatles lyrics in his classes. When he learns that John Lennon is shooting Richard Lester's How I Won The War in Almeria, he decides to drive down the country in the hopes of meeting his idol.
Along the way, Antonio picks up two young hitch-hikers: Belen (Natalia de Molina), a pregnant 20-year-old who is reluctantly returning home to her family, and Juanjo (Francesc Colomer), a teenage boy who has run away from his bullying father after he disapproved of his Beatles haircut. Once in Almeria, the trio set up residence together in a local farmhouse and forge a lasting bond while Antonio attempts to fulfil his quest.
Javier Camera (Talk To Her) has long been a mainstay of Spanish cinema and he delivers one of his best performances as Antonio, radiating warmth and generating touching chemistry with both his co-stars. The supporting cast are equally good, particularly Colomer, whose heavily bullied character, we suspect, is about to face a pretty tough time in Franco's Spain (as will unwed mother Belen).
The script is excellent, especially the scenes in which Antonio talks passionately about the messages of the Beatles' lyrics. However, Trueba also layers in darker moments (such as both Antonio and Juanjo encountering hostile locals, scenes that don't quite play out the way you might expect) that reflect life in Franco's Spain and go some way to illuminating just how powerful and resonant the Beatles' songs might have been at that time.
The film looks gorgeous throughout thanks to Daniel Vilar's sun-drenched cinematography and Trueba makes strong use of his southern landscapes. He also orchestrates a number of wonderful
scenes, such as a tiny punch-the-air moment of triumph and a terrific, feelgood final sequence involving a Beatles song (the title is from the opening lines to Strawberry Fields Forever).
Superbly written and brilliantly acted, Living is Easy with Eyes Closed is a hugely entertaining Spanish comedy that will make your face hurt from smiling so much. Highly recommended.
Living is Easy with Eyes Closed (M)