Features Reviews

I AM EASY TO FIND: A Love Letter to the Ephemeral

Emanuel writes about Mike Mills' newest venture and how it relates to his personal experiences.

Sometimes, when I’m particularly sad, and scorned by the rebuking cold of my current house’s tile flooring, I think back on my childhood home. I wonder if the carpet is still there — while admittedly cheap and rancid given the voracious youth it housed, I remember it serving as a wildly unpredictable surface for my Legos to trek across. I wonder whether or not the pink counter tops are still there — hideous and disenchanting as they were, I remember them as the backdrop to the first time I called my fourth grade girlfriend, talking her ear off about the Jonas Brothers for two hours. I wonder if they’ve finally added proper insulation in the walls, because I really could’ve gone without hearing my mother cry through them.

I Am Easy To Find (2019) – source: Mike Mills/The National

Above all else, I Am Easy To Find is transfixed by the dichotomy of the inevitable and ephemeral, seesawing between the exhaustive, anticipatory sluggishness of milestones, and the devastating blinks in which they depart. Considering the bizarre collaborative throes in which it was conceived, its cohesion is miraculous, and most simply defined as a transcendent coalescence of motion and melody, reinvigorating the artistic potential of visual albums in just twenty-five minutes. Whereas most records with visual accompaniment treat the tool as flashy afterthought — with neither avenue significantly enhancing the quality of the other — director Mike Mills and The National front man Matt Berningner modified the two elements in real-time, ensuring that the films’ overarching intent never get lost in the vague musings and orchestral swellings. The results are obvious – the tracks are less of an extension of the film, more so an additional appendage, each chord amplifying the potency behind its every sensory phenomenon, each lyric providing a seamless transition to the next image. 

I Am Easy To Find (2019) – source: Mike Mills/The National

Since my first viewing (and the additional three that immediately followed), there’s a specific image that has stuck with me. The short’s chief role — a woman personified throughout by Alicia Vikander, communicating age through body language and emotive complexity — has just turned ten. A moment simply subtitled “She wants to be a dancer,” a girl twirls in an empty hallway. She stops, and extends her arms outward to hands that aren’t there. Her eyebrows twist upward, her bottom lip subtly quivering in time, begging for validation from an audience that doesn’t exist. This moment, like many others, left me sobbing harder than I ever have, often to the point of aggressive sniffles and muddied vision. In a film dictated by impressionistic slivers of life, that specific slice reigns above the rest, as I believe it to be emblematic of the comforting, all-encompassing theme hiding behind the brutal parallels and unmistakable croons: no matter where we are, how old we get, or how “put together” we think we are, we’ll always be those ten-year-old dancers, yearning for affirmation from people we won’t see twice. 

I Am Easy To Find (2019) – source: Mike Mills/The National

Recently, upon finding myself with an empty schedule and a full tank of gas, I stopped by my childhood home. Strangers fill its walls now, married parents to a growing son and a dog that looks too much like mine. My old basketball hoop is gone, as is the invasive, weed-like bush my mom and I never cared to cut down. The sole oak tree in the backyard, a natural umbrella that served as my only solace on sweltering summer days, looks much smaller than I remember. I wonder if that kid treasures his carpet just as much as I did. I wonder if he hears his mother crying through the walls. 

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