Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nowhwere Boy (2009)

Nowhere Boy has something to say about John Lennon.

This solid 2009 effort from director Sam Taylor-Johnson, making her feature-film debut, explores a difficult time in the life of a teenaged Lennon. That drama makes for compelling viewing. The look at the birth of The Beatles is also fascinating to watch. Keep an eye out for how, and where, Lennon forms The Quarrymen.

He's living with his hard as nails aunt, Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas). She runs a tight ship. Her husband, George (David Threlfall) has a closer relationship with his nephew, but dies shortly after this story begins. Mimi wants John to get his education. He keeps getting suspended and burning letters from the school meant for her eyes.

It's a friend of Lennon's who tells him his mother, Julia (Anna-Marie Duff), lives within walking distance of Mimi's home. Much of Nowhere Boy explores the relationship between Lennon and the woman who gave him up to her sister's care. He's excited to find her. Julia is very different from her sister. She's a carefree spirit, loves rock and roll music over the classical music Mimi favours. She dances. She flirts. Julia teaches him to play the banjo. She's with John when he sees a newsreel clip of a young Elvis Presley driving the girls crazy. It's then he decides he wants to be follow in the King of Rock and Roll's footsteps.

There's continued tension at home with Mimi livid at John's cutting classes and stealing rides on the double-decker buses. He wants to move in with his mom, but her husband isn't keen on the idea. Lennon is a Nowhere Boy.

Much of the film is dedicated to the relationship between Lennon, his mother and his aunt. But Nowhere Boy also explores the launch of Lennon's first band, The Quarrymen, that comes to include Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie-Sangstar) and George Harrison (Sam Bell).

There's a quick nod to a famous photograph taken of The Quarrymen performing at a church social in July 1957, the day Lennon and McCartney met. Nowhere Boy also includes The Quarrymen recording their first song, In Spite of all the Danger, that was included on the first anthology album by The Beatles in 1995.

Taylor-Johnson delivers a strong performance as a young Lennon offering hints of his humour and, at times, his nastiness towards others. There's flashes of Lennon's wit with language too. Scott Thomas offers a human side besides Mimi's strict personality. Duff is a standout as Julia, a woman who loves life, but has made some bad choices.

Nowhere Boy is a hit.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Thomas Brodie-Sangster played another major historical figure. He was a young Hitler in Hitler: The Rise of Evil.

Nowhwere Boy is the only film credit for Sam Bell.

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