Across the Universe (2007) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • The music of The Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.

  • Across The Universe is a fictional love story set in the 1960s amid the turbulent years of anti-war protest, the struggle for free speech and civil rights, mind exploration and rock and roll. At once gritty, whimsical and highly theatrical, the story moves from high schools and universities in Massachusetts, Princeton and Ohio to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Detroit riots, Vietnam and the dockyards of Liverpool. A combination of live action and animation, the film is paired with many songs by The Beatles that defined the time.

  • Musical based on The Beatles songbook. Set in the 60s England, America, and Vietnam. The love story of Lucy and Jude is intertwined with the anti-war movement and social protests of the 60s. Over 30 Beatles' songs are woven into the plot together with visual allusions to their timeless films: Help! (1965), A Hard Day's Night (1964), Magical Mystery Tour (1967) (TV), Yellow Submarine (1968) and Let It Be (1970).


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film opens with a solitary figure, Jude (Jim Sturgess), sitting on a quiet beachfront, singing Girl with a melancholy air, while looking off into the distant horizon. It's the end of the workday as Jude lines up with his fellow shipyard hands for their day's wages. After receiving payment from the old man in charge, Jude walks back home, smiling along the way.

    As he leaves, Hold Me Tight begins, while we flash to an idealistic prom scene, where Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) dances along with her boyfriend Daniel (Spencer Liff) and their classmates. A classic band plays along, as Lucy sings to Daniel Tell me I'm the only one

    In another part of the world, another couple in Liverpool is singing the same song as they dance at a dark underground Liverpool bar, a reference to the Cavern Club, where the Beatles began their career. Jude holds his girlfriend (Lisa Hogg) as she sings Let me go on loving you. Ambling along a dark, damp street after leaving the bar, Jude and his girlfriend hold hands and trip along the cobblestone. They stop to kiss along the road, as she tells Jude not to forget her while he is in America. He laughs and consoles her, singing While I'm away, I'll write home everyday, and I'll send all my loving to you. While Jude continues to sing All My Loving, he packs his bag, kisses his mom (Angela Mounsey), and heads off to the docks to board a ship to America, seeking out his estranged father in New Jersey.

    Back at Daniel's house, Lucy is seeing him off to boot camp and Vietnam. In his new uniform, Daniel drives off while Lucy runs after the car. We then see Lucy sitting on her bed writing a letter, clearly for Daniel.

    In an army vehicle we see Daniel reading the letter presumably from Lucy as he and his fellow recruits drive away from Boot Camp. The vehicle drives past a high school football field, where football practice is winding down, with cheerleaders running through their routines and watching the players on the field.

    After practice ends, a cheerleader, Prudence (T.V. Carpio), watches wistfully as a fellow cheerleader flirts with a football player. She softly sings I Want To Hold Your Hand as she watches her obvious rival walking away with the jock. As she watches them and sings, she walks off the field, into the unknown. We then see her on the side of the road, thumb extended. In a different part of America, Jude is doing exactly the same thing. A car pulls over for him and, momentarily trying to get in on the wrong side before realizing American cars are different, he gets in.

    Jude arrives at Princeton and stands on the academic quad while a student, obviously in a rush, tears his way through the crowd and drops all of his books and papers. While stooping down to help collect the papers, Jude asks the student if he knows a certain professor, believing him to be his father. The student, Max (Joe Anderson), is first at a loss, until he realizes that Jude is looking for the janitor (Robert Clohessy). He laughs, and points to a man washing windows on a ladder, saying "That's him."

    Introducing himself to the window washer, Jude explains who he is. At first, the man is surprised, saying that he didn't know the mother was pregnant, and that he would have married Jude's mother if he had known. Jude assures him that this apology wasn't what he wanted, but just wanted "them each to know that the other existed."

    Max, the charming and outgoing student from earlier, is on a roof with a few of his buddies as they chip golf balls off of a beer bottle at the nearby dormitory windows. After a few misses, he finally connects - and the group flees the angry mob that spills out of the dorm. Jude, seeing the commotion while out having a cigarette in front of the building that his father is letting him stay in, lets Max slip in to hide. Grateful, Max invites Jude to go out that night with himself and his golfing buddies. While proclaiming that they get by With a Little Help From My Friends, they smoke and drink their way through town until they finally collapse on couches from exhaustion.

    Lucy walks home from school with her friend, while she talks about missing her boyfriend Daniel. As they walk up to Lucy's house, her mom hands her a letter, smiling; it's from Daniel saying that he has been able to get a few weeks leave, and will be home soon to visit. Lucy launches into song as she flies up the stairs, excited that "It Won't Be Long" before she'll be back together with Daniel.

    For Thanksgiving break, Max invites Jude home for the holidays. After picking up Max's little sister, who turns out to be Lucy, they continue on home. At dinner, Max announces that he is dropping out of college and going to New York. An argument ensues, and the three decide to go out bowling to release some tension.

    At the alley, while they joke around and tease each other, Jude thinks to himself that he's "falling, yes he is falling" for Lucy while singing I've Just Seen A Face. When he and Max drive away to New York, Max warns Jude that Lucy has a boyfriend. Jude smiles and assures him that It's OK; he has a girlfriend too.

    Jude and Max arrive in the city, and after climbing to the top of a walkup, they enter a large apartment owned by a singer named Sadie (Dana Fuchs), who shows them the apartment, while several people lounge around playing the guitar or reading. Pleased with the apartment, they agree to pay two weeks' rent in advance, and become New Yorkers.

    Moving to the streets of Detroit during the race riots, a little boy cowers next to a car on fire, while black men and women run on the streets from the police. Staring out at the audience, he sings "Let It Be" among the violence. Moving into a church in the black community, while the choir swells, we see the same little boy laying in a coffin, obviously a casualty of the rioting. JoJo (Martin Luther) stands holding an older woman as she weeps, staring at the little boy's lifeless body. The little boy is his younger brother.

    Experiencing the same grief, we see Lucy weeping after a letter to Daniel's parents notify them of his death. She too, stares at the burial of her boyfriend, as soldiers fold up the flag and hand it to bereaved mother.

    As the song ends, JoJo slings a guitar over his shoulder, and walks down the street, heading to New York City himself. As he steps along, Come Together plays to the beat. Walking down the street, he sees a sign for Guitarist Needed at the bar "Café Huh?" and enters. Sadie is there, and gives him the role of lead guitarist in her band. He comes to the apartment to live; one night while he is playing a song on his guitar for Jude, a water-logged Prudence climbs into their bathroom window out of the rain, and becomes their newest roommate.

    After graduating high school, Lucy joins her brother Max and friend Jude in the city for the summer before she goes to college. While she's happy to see her brother, she's reluctant to give him the letter that came for him - a draft notice. At a party at the apartment that night, Jude falls again for Lucy, and breaks up with a girl that he was seeing. Lucy sings If I Fell while they dance, and finally kiss.

    The next day, Max reports to the draft board for his physical, and despite having swallowed an entire box of cotton balls in the hopes that it will show up as a shadow in x-rays, is deemed qualified for service. While he and a large group of men all endure rigorous physicals, they imagine an animated poster of Uncle Sam singing to them I Want You.

    Back at the apartment, Prudence is mourning the coupling of JoJo and Sadie, after having found herself infatuated with the singer. She locks herself into the closet, and the others sing Dear Prudence to coax her out of her hiding place. Despite this, Prudence leaves unexpectedly; no one is sure where she goes.

    The remaining gang goes to a party where an agent tries to convince Sadie to go solo. Tripping out on pink punch, the group embarks on a psychedelic cross-country bus trip. At a stop in a field, they see a circus run by Mr. Kite, and find Prudence in the troupe dating a contortionist named Rita.

    Max is now off to war, leaving Lucy angry and distraught. After seeing an anti-war speaker in the park, she decides to protest the war and call to bring the troops home. As Lucy devotes more and more time to the protest, Jude becomes jealous of the man that runs the group.

    Sadie has finally told the rest of the band that she is planning on going solo. Infuriated, JoJo purposefully ruins her opening song Oh! Darling with distracting and awful guitar riffs, forcing her to leave the stage. Having his own relationship trouble, Jude sinks into his artistic work while singing Strawberry Fields Forever. He and Lucy have now fought over her increasing involvement and obsession with her anti-war group, culminating in Jude confronting her at their headquarters while singing Revolution.

    After being kicked out, he walks by a window display of the announcement of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. While My Guitar Gently Weeps starts playing. He meets up with JoJo and gets drunk, only to find that Lucy has moved all of her belongings out of the apartment, leaving him. Later that day, he gets on a subway (to the song Across The Universe) to go to Columbia University, where the anti-war group's actions escalate to increasing violence, leading to police action at Columbia.

    Sadie starts singing Helter, Skelter at a club, while Jude, walking through, sees Lucy as one of the protesters being arrested by the police, and attempts to save her while she is being dragged away. She calls out to him, but he is overcome by the police and is arrested.

    At the same time, Max gets into a gunfight, where he is injured and has a dream sequence about naked Vietnamese mothers floating in the river.

    Meanwhile, Jude sits in his jail cell, as more and more prisoners are released. Finally, alone, his father comes to visit him and breaks the news that although the police will not press charges, he is being deported to England. He encounters Molly, his old flame, now pregnant with Phil's child.

    While he is walking home, the scene cuts to Lucy at Max's bedside in the VA hospital. He starts singing Happiness is a Warm Gun in a sequence with Salma Hayek as a nurse.

    At one of her rallies, Lucy is in a phone booth, while her mother pleads with her on the phone to be careful and begs her to stop her involvement in the protests. Resolved, she argues with her mother, when a fight breaks out, and a bullet hits the phone booth. Lucy tells her mother she has to go and hangs up, then screams as she sees a protestor being mauled by a police dog. Uninjured but shaking in terror, Lucy sinks down while singing to herself that it'll be alright. TV scenes of the DC protests and the Pentagon protest show while Max watches at the VA hospital. Lucy goes back to the old protest headquarters and finds Paco making pipe bombs.

    A Day in the Life is playing as Jude gets off work, and he gets a newspaper and sees that the place where the protesters organized had blown up. Cut to him sitting on the beach... then cut to the wharf area in NY, where Max is sitting and Lucy sings Blackbird, while Jude wanders the beach and tidal areas in Liverpool.

    Jude gets back into his routine at the shipyards, then sits in a pub after work, having a pint. To the words of Hey Jude, sung by Max (as imagined by Jude as sitting next to him, while he is looking into a mirror behind the bar), he runs to his house to again pack his bags, and returns to the States (this time with a visa) to reclaim Lucy. Max meets him at Customs, and takes him to the building where Sadie and JoJo's reunited band is playing Don't Let Me Down to a cheering crowd on the streets.

    Unaware that Jude is back, Lucy is invited by note by Max to come to the concert. She is about to press the buzzer when she sees the strawberry logo Jude designed for Sadie, and old memories of her and Jude and the pain of the breakup come rushing back, and she walks away hurriedly. The police break up the concert as the crowd gathering gets larger. Jude hides from the police, and after being left alone on the roof, starts singing All You Need Is Love into the microphone. Sadie, JoJo, Prudence, Max, and the rest all rush back up to the roof, and join in. Lucy hears Jude's voice, and frantically rushes to get into the building, only to be stopped by the police. She turns, and runs to a building across the street, and stares at Jude from the roof across the way. As the rest of the band join in with song, Jude catches Lucy's eye from across the building. She smiles as a tear runs down her cheek. Jude sighs and a smile of happiness slowly spreads across his face. Together in the end, they kiss as Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds plays during the end credits.

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