During "A Special Evening with the National" last Friday night at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, the band joined director Mike Mills (20th Century Women) for a screening of the short film I Am Easy to Find — which goes by the same name as The National's new album coming out this month. The screening was followed by a Q&A moderated by Carrie Brownstein, which featured Mills, band members Matt Berninger and Bryce Dessner, as well as film star, Alicia Vikander, who said this was one of the best artistic experiences she'd ever had. Later in the evening, The National joined the stage with special guests Feist and Phoebe Bridgers, along with Kate Stables and Mina Tindle, to perform some of the band's newest songs, including "Where is Her Head," along with fan favorites like "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness," "Bloodbuzz Ohio," and "I Need My Girl."
Described by Mills as "playfully hostile siblings that love to steal from each other," the film and album are both complementary and evocative, drawing a narrative out from one another to create a moving account driven by sound and picture. The film is at once a poignant coming of age and coming of life story, following the trajectory of our heroine, played by Vikander. With her cast throughout the lifetime of the main character, from infancy till old age, the film portrays that who we are in life never changes; our soul remains a singular constant as our bodies change, and as we travel through the motions of life, age, relationships, and shifting identities defining what it means to be a daughter, friend, woman, mother, grandmother, and ultimately, simply, a human being.
The album and film both inspired each other, Mills says, but "don't necessarily need one another." The collaboration began in September 2017 when Mills reached out to The National's Matt Berninger, expressing an interest in working together. While neither project was made for the sake of the other, they're cut from the same cloth, with an overlapping vision of what it is to simply spend time on earth.
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With minimal dialogue, I Am Easy to Find draws a contour of life: growing up, moving out, getting married, having children, and continuing the cycle. Relatable in its utter simplicity, the film and album juxtapose a female experience with male vocals, such that the tale is both visually and audibly accessible to anyone who engages it.
All photos courtesy of Brian Berkowitz