John Lennon Inspires an On-the-Road Fable
By Skip Sheffield
“Living is Easy With Eyes Closed” is lifted from the song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” written by John Lennon in Almeria, Spain in 1966.
Thereby hangs the tale of “With Eyes Closed,” written and directed by David Trueba. The title is from a verse in John Lennon’s autobiographical song “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The movie is not about John Lennon or the Beatles, but it is a jumping off point for Trueba’s fan-boy fantasy of three unlikely friends on the road together.
Antonio (Javier Camara) is a mild-mannered middle-aged high school English teacher who is a major fan of John Lennon. Lennon traveled to Almeria, Spain in 1966 to launch his solo acting career with Richard Lester’s bitter anti-war black comedy, “How I Won the War.” While in Almeria Lennon wrote the dreamy “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which was about a favorite childhood place in Liverpool, England.
Antonio is such a John Lennon groupie he intends to drive his little Fiat all the way south to the Mediterranean seaside town of Almeria to meet his hero.
On the way he spots a pretty girl on the side of the road. Her name is Belen (Natalia de Molina), and she is fleeting the strict discipline of a convent where her parents have placed her. Oblivious to any danger, Belen accepts Antonio’s offer of a ride to Almeria. Soon afterward they encounter a boy who is also on the run. In the case of Juanjo, 16, (Francesc Colomer), he has run away from a strict father who has ordered him to cut his Beatles-style mop.
Both of the young travelers are intrigued at the prospect of seeing or perhaps meeting John Lennon, but that goal is not easy. In fact it may be impossible.
“With Eyes Closed” is a lovely movie, both for its scenic settings and its good-looking young actors. Javier Camera, who is best-known in America for his supporting roles in Pedro Almodvar’s “Talk to Her” and “I’m So Excited,” is an unlikely movie star in his native Spain. For his Walter Mitty-like character of Antonio he is likely to win your heart too. Just don’t go to this movie expecting a lot of Beatles trivia, because you won’t get it.