• Outsider Pictures
I went out of my way to avoid this road trip movie during SIFF, not because I dislike the Beatles—the title comes from "Strawberry Fields Forever"—but because I've had enough of them to last a lifetime. So that's my bias. But the film, which won six Goyas, isn't bad (the Goyas are Spain's Oscar equivalent).

Director David Trueba sets Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed in 1966. Antonio (Talk to Her's Javier Cámara), a teacher, uses Beatles songs to help teach his students English. While en route to Almería in hopes of meeting John Lennon, who's shooting a movie there, he runs into two different hitchhikers from two different towns: Belén (Natalia de Molina, a cross between Mary Louise Parker and Natalie Portman), a single pregnant woman, and Juanjo (Fransec Colomer), a disaffected teenager. He offers to give both of them a ride.

They're almost disconcertingly trusting, but Antonio, a bachelor, turns out to be a pretty trustworthy guy—though he doesn't appreciate Juanjo's preference for the 'Stones over the Beatles. In Almería, they also befriend a barkeep, who's equally trustworthy. Some things go wrong, some things go right, and everything moves at a rural pace: no one's in a rush and there's always time for one more cerveza.

  • MGM/UA Home Entertainment
It isn't a docudrama, though Lennon really did shoot a movie, Richard Lester's How I Won the War, in Spain—it's also where he wrote "Strawberry Fields." There are references to other Beatles songs, like "Help," but no original performances appear on the soundtrack, possibly due to cost. For anyone who's as weary of the band as I am: this isn't such a bad thing. The score, instead, features subtle string work from guitarist Pat Metheny and the late bass player Charlie Haden.

I assumed while, watching the film, that it represented a form of cinematic wish fulfillment—unlikely Franco-era trio find themselves with the assistance of free-spirited Beatle—except Trueba drew inspiration from a real teacher for the character of Antonio (90-year-old Juan Carrión Gañán). Whether he actually inspired the Beatles to include printed lyrics with all of their subsequent records, I couldn't say, but the band did make the change in the wake of John Lennon's 1966 trip to Spain.

In any case, it's a more enjoyable film than How I Won the War, which never quite clicked for me, unlike Lester's Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night and Help!

Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed opens today—find Movie Times here.