Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy

DIR: Sam Taylor Wood • WRI: Matt Greenhalgh • PRO: Robert Bernstein, Matt Delargy, Kevin Loader, Douglas Rae, Paul Ritchie, James Saynor • DOP: Seamus McGarvey • ED: Lisa Gunning • DES: Alice Normington • CAST: Kristin Scott Thomas, Thomas Sangster, Aaron Johnson, Anne-Marie Duff, Sam Bell

2009 brought about quite a revival for The Beatles. We’ve had a video game in Beatles Rock Band, a complete renewal of their back-catalogue with the remastered albums, and now (in a move more familiar to the horror genre) we get the ‘origins’ movie. Nowhere Boy is based on John Lennon’s sister Julia’s memoirs Imagine This: Growing Up with My Brother John Lennon, which lends credibility to this previously untold story of the adolescent Mr. Lennon. The film follows John (Aaron Johnson) from his mid-teens through a time of self-discovery, ending as The Beatles leave for Hamburg to learn their trade.

The narrative is predominantly concerned with John’s relationship with the two women (ir)responsible for his upbringing. John’s largely absent and wayward but ultimately loving and passionate mother is played with fervour by Anne-Marie Duff. In his mother’s absence, John’s upbringing is left to his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) whose absolute dedication to the English tradition of stiff upper lip leaves John unfulfilled in his youth. Their combined influence on the rebellious youth vie for balance as John’s schoolwork suffers through his growing love for music and the lifestyle which accompanies it. John’s mother introduces him to rock ’n’ roll much to Mimi’s chagrin, but in doing so sparks the creative flair in her son which had lain dormant until then. Mimi’s influence is more evident in the eloquent and matured John Lennon whom this Elvis-obsessed youth would one day become.

The adolescent John Lennon of Nowhere Boy is the embodiment of the myth which this man became following his premature death. That the film is tinted by a romantic’s vision becomes evident upon the introduction of Paul McCartney. Paul is played by Thomas Sangster – who you may recall as the love-struck son of Liam Neeson in Love Actually and has apparently not grown since – who occupies roughly half the space of the muscular, handsome and charismatic Lennon and drinks tea when not playing a guitar twice his size.

Nowhere Boy, despite its obvious allegiance to Lennon and not McCartney, emerges as a fascinating biopic. That it is based on a first-hand account of events that unfolded behind closed doors, and which shaped the man that was to become Lennon, affords the film credibility where another version of the same story would be purely fiction. As with Control, an enthralling biopic of Ian Curtis, the screenplay for Nowhere Boy was penned by Matt Greenhalgh. Both films are chiefly concerned with the mentality of their protagonists; Nowhere Boy is an attempt to get inside the head of John Lennon through the people and events which made him who he was, with family naturally a dominant aspect.

As a story, it is unremarkable when separated from the subsequent fame of Lennon and The Beatles. If this were purely a coming-of-age story about your average Joe Soap there would be little to recommend it. However, because of the man Lennon would later become there is plenty here to interest, entertain and possibly enrage your average Beatles fan. This is only the first chapter of Lennon’s story, but it forms the basis of everything that would follow.

Peter White
(See biog here)

Rated 15a (see IFCO website for details)
Nowhere Boy
is released 26th Dec 2009

Nowhere Boy
– Official Website

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