“Nowhere Boy” Review [VIDEO]
It had me at first scene.
We see a large, pillared, museum-like building. We see a young, dark haired boy seemingly running for his life, yet he continually glances back with a huge grin.
There’s nothing behind him, yet we hear the tidal wave-like roar of a screaming crowd.
Cut to a shot of the young man waking up in bed from an amazing dream.
Those of you who have seen the magnum opus “Hard Days Night” know this is a nod to it’s opening scene.
I’ve read so many books, watched so many videos/documentaries/biopics of John Lennon since the age of fourteen that I know the story’s basic moving parts: Dad Freddie was a sailor who was in the picture early on but all but disappeared until Beatlemania hit. Mom Julia was an independent free-spirit who didn’t play a significant role until her son’s teenage years. In their place was Julia’s sister, the legendary, authoritative, strict, straight laced “Aunt Mimi” and her husband, George. They were charged with handling John’s formative years.
“Nowhere Boy” chronicles those times.
One of the film’s more effective entries is the early on portrayal of John’s relationship with Uncle George who was the buddy/schemer/pal to Mimi’s disciplinarian.
George died early on and it set the tone for Lennon’s theme of loss in his life. But the film shows their relationship in an all-to-brief but beautiful light.
George gave him his first harmonica, encouraged the whole music thing.
Then he died.
Lennon re-connects with his estranged mum, Julia, re-married and living in Blackpool not far from his Liverpool with a domineering husband and two half-sisters.
She is a bubbly free spirit. Happy, energetic, affectionate, laughing, naughty, fun. Sharply contrasted by her resentful sister Mimi.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d say the scenes depicting John and she re-connecting with one another was a romanctic montage, two people falling in love.
Mimi was cold, strict, seemingly unfeeling.
Mix them together, and sure enough, you get John Winston Lennon.
From there, we get hearing Elvis for the first time, first meeting McCartney and George Harrison (that latter one is particularly effective) the forming of the first band “The Quarrymen“.
John was way complicated and “Nowhere Boy” shows you why.
It’s weird watching the portrayal of these characters – all the drama, sadness and anger – knowing that in six or seven years “Sgt. Pepper” would be created.
But it makes sense. John had more talent than any human being should have to endure. Mix that together with all the egos/ambitions/lies/anger/love/hate/abandonment/death/loss/success he had to live with and analyze and well, Ala, the “angry genius”.
Aaron Johnson doesn’t look or sound like Lennon (he improves in Lennon’s college years) and Thomas Sangster who plays McCartney looks like a ten year old boy.
But this is a film that concentrates on characters and relationships. The music – and what we know it will eventually lead to – is a side note.
Kristin Scott Thomas is great as the uptight yet loving Mimi (missing a best supporting actress nomination IMO) and Anne Marie Duff is effective as the wounded, confused and doomed, yet enigmatic and sexy Julia.
There’s a particularly moving scene between John and Paul during Julia’s funeral near the end of the film that makes you wonder how the two could have ever not been bffs‘.
The film ends with John telling Mimi he’s “off to Hamburg” with the band. The band’s name is never uttered.
We all know what happened afterwards.
Most effective: the end credits are a montage of black and white photos of little-boy John and Mimi, of freakishly young Harrison, McCartney and Lennon.
It’s sad to look at the cute, happy little boy growing up in post-war England and know he’d be shot to death as a 40 year old cultural icon across the ocean in another time.
John’s life seemed to be ordained as a drama.
In the end it might be a good lesson in that money and fame don’t buy happiness. And when you think about it, John, even in the New York years with Yoko and Sean, never seemed truly happy.
And we all know what happens in the end.