Nowhere Boy: The life of a legend

Posted on: 04/03/2010

Review by Jo Isaac

Film: Nowhere Boy

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Anne-Marie Duff, Kristin Scott Thomas.

Director: Sam Taylor-Wood

Rating: *****

As a major Beatles and John Lennon fan I was excited but a little apprehensive about the new film ‘Nowhere Boy’. The film documents around two of Lennon’s teenage years, and anyone who knows his story will be aware that it is a sad and sensitive tale that must be treated with great care by a film maker.

After being ‘taken’ from his mother when he was five by his strict aunt, Mimi, John lived with her for some years. He began seeing his mother again during his early teenage years, sometimes having to go to great lengths to visit her. Sadly, just as John was re-establishing his relationship with her, she was hit by a car and killed. John was only 17. This is the section of John’s life covered in the film. The main focus is on the emotional and difficult relationship between these three characters.

Starring Aaron Johnson (Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging) and directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, I was concerned that the film would be modernised, tacky and polished, however I was pleasantly surprised! The film is wonderful! It sweeps you into the life of Lennon, and his feelings and emotional turmoil about his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas) are revealed, sometimes painfully (be prepared to cry), but without any modern teenage tantrums. It is portrayed in a heartfelt, sensitive way and you can feel the director’s love and respect for Lennon.

Filmed in Liverpool, the first scene shows John running alongside ‘St George’s Hall’ before being awoken from his dream by his aunt’s stern words. You see John’s development into a ‘rocker’, the death of his beloved uncle George, his first meeting with his mother, learning the banjo with her, his boyish antics with his friends and band members, his raw rock and roll performances, his sometimes harsh ways, and his more hidden, sensitive, and genius side.

Although the film focuses on John’s difficult relationships, the early development of the Beatles is also visible. We witness the joining of Paul and George to ‘The Quarrymen’ and the film ends with their departure to Hamburg where they will find later band member Ringo Starr and find themselves… truly becoming Beatles.

 In the last scene we see Lennon strolling up the road after saying goodbye to Mimi, clad in leather jacket and slicked back hair, having removed his glasses despite Mimi’s final reminder of “glasses John”, and the heart rending voice of the real Lennon cries out his song ‘Mother’. It is the only Lennon song used in the film and you cannot help but feel overwhelming sadness.

It was director Sam Taylor-Wood’s first feature film. She said she did not want it to be an imitation of Lennon but an interpretation, and I think this is the best approach she could have. She treats the story and personality of Lennon with the respect it deserves and she chose the perfect candidate to portray him. Johnson does not look particularly like Lennon and thankfully it doesn’t feel as if he is trying to be Lennon but he fits the role perfectly, bringing a brilliant insight into Lennon’s character. He puts his heart and soul into the part and forces you to take the journey with him, forgetting you are in a cinema.

Much of the filming was in Liverpool, and includes scenes in the bustling Albert Docks, Strawberry Field, The Liver Building, The Cavern and a recreation of John’s House.

This film is a must-see for all Beatles and Lennon fans, but also is the story of a real person who had a huge impact on the world and it can be appreciated by anyone.

Have you seen the film? What do you think? Add your comments below.


1 Response to "Nowhere Boy: The life of a legend"

This is an amaaaazing article Jo! I completely agree, the film is amazing and I want to go see it again – in Liverpool again! I don’t want to wait until the DVD comes out, it’ll be aaaages. =[

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