‘Living is Easy with Eyes Closed’ in search of strawberry fields.”

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”

— John Lennon

On the dusty roads of Franco’s oppressive 1966 Spain, three strangers, dreaming quite alone, come together like lost birds circling the earth in search of a strong current of wind that will take them somewhere, anywhere but here. Two are flying from the heat of unfortunate circumstances, only one has a goal: to meet John Lennon, who is in Spain shooting Richard Lester’s forgettable “How I Won the War.”

One among them, even in his childlike passion, brings it all to reality.

Antonio (Javier Camara) teaches English and Latin in the repressive atmosphere of a strict Spanish Catholic school. He is a humble, proud man who believes in his profession and loves his work. Antonio, a bachelor, lives an almost comically sad life alone in a tiny apartment where, when his one hot plate doesn’t work, he heats his supper of soup on his pressing iron, while he grades his papers.

A balding, unattractive man in his late 40s, Antonio has almost nothing in his life but his work and a private passion for the Beatles, especially John Lennon, whose words he uses to teach his kids.

When he learns that his idol is shooting a movie in the Almeria section of Spain, he comes alive.

In another part of Madrid, a 20-something girl Belen, three months pregnant (Natalia de Molina) runs away from a hospital home where her mother has enrolled her to keep the situation from prying neighbors’ eyes.

Not far from Belen, a sensitive and artistic teenage boy, Juanjo (Francesc Colomer) takes flight on his own journey to escape the wrath of his arrogant and domineering policeman father, who insists he cut his Beatles haircut before his sister’s baptism. He has long been unhappy at home, but this is unacceptable.

Antonio meets Belen at a gas stop and rescues her from a scary old man who gave her a ride. On the road, they pick up Juanjo and bit by tiny bit on the way to Almeria, the two youngers reveal their plights to the kindly teacher, who knows how to ask just the right questions to open their stories.

In Almeria near the sea, they find lodging in an old seaside bar-cafe in the local strawberry fields, run by a man chased by his own past (a very good Ramon Fontsere) who lives in exile from a runaway wife, and spends his days taking care of his disabled son. This character and the story of his life would make a movie of its own.

Here, far from the problems of home, our young pilgrims find part-time work, cleaning and waiting tables for the owner, as Antonio plots his next move to get to the movie location and meet John.

As we long expected, Antonio finds himself falling in love with the much younger Belen, and even broaches the possibility of marrying her and caring for her child. But for one late night kiss, he pulls back.

And it’s no surprise given their close quarters, that Belen and Juanjo succumb to the music of the waves, starry Spanish skies, soft breezes and the guitar of Pat Methany.

Eventually, passing through several comic attempts, Antonio manages to sneak into a daily rushes viewing at the location site, and gets a note to John, who miraculously agrees to see him. We and the kids see only a glimpse of a “John” inviting him into his trailer. But they know at least one dream bird has landed.

“Living is Easy with Eyes Closed” (the title is from Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever”) is a slight story, but with a few good life lessons. It’s charming and romantic, fueled by good performances, a smooth script and direction by David Trueba. Daniel Vilar’s camera and Pat Metheny’s music in the background give us the proper taste of Spain. “Living” is getting good press, and it’s for sure that John would have loved it. That, for those of us who shared his short life, should be enough.

“Living” won a flock of Goya Awards, picking up the Spanish Film Academy’s Best Film and Best Director. Camara won for Best Actor. It also took Best Original Score and Screenplay.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.