Nowhere Boy is a film that has finally come across the pond from England after being nominated for several prestigious awards and winning a few. Nowhere Boy tells the story of Beatles member John Lennon’s teenage life. While some may go to this movie thinking that it will tell the early days of the Beatles, it is not the main focus of the film. The meat of the film is the conflict between John (Aaron Johnson), John’s mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), and his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas). John was raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George due to complicated circumstances with John’s mother and father. Unfortunately, Uncle George passes away soon after the film begins, but you realize that he was an influence in John’s life musically. Aunt Mimi continues to raise John as a single parent, and she has to deal with John’s increasing ambivalence to school and his penchant for recklessness. Soon after Uncle George passes away, John is taken by his cousin to meet his mother for the first time since he was little. Much to John’s shock, she only lives a few blocks away with her husband and two kids. Rightly so, John develops a disdain toward Mimi for keeping his mother from him.
I am not a huge Beatles fan, but those that are will appreciate seeing the beginnings of the Beatles formation and the look into John’s first band, The Quarrymen. I did not know that John Lennon met up with Paul McCartney and George Harrison when they were only teenagers. I guess I never realized how young they were when they hit the big time. While the film never goes into The Beatles or their epic success, you do get a glimpse of early rivalries. John becomes a bit jealous of Paul’s guitar skills when it brings Paul the admiration of Julia. It is also interesting that John was taught the guitar and banjo by Paul and Julia. The film also portrays the effect and influence that Elvis and rock and roll had on the youth at that time. After Elvis becomes popular and is seen on the movie screen to the delight of English girls, the boys take note and start dressing like him and they all have the same exact haircut.
The acting is superb in Nowhere Boy. As soon as John meets his mom, you can feel the awkwardness that Aaron Johnson projects when John is uncomfortable just having met this woman yet she is so alive and eager to build a relationship with him. Kristin Scott Thomas has just the right amount of indifference and coldness as Aunt Mimi at the beginning of the film, while still showing glimpses of her love for John. Anne-Marie Duff plays the bipolar Julia fantastically. I am curious to know if Aaron Johnson, Thomas Sangster (Paul McCartney), and Sam Bell (George Harrison) learned how to sing and play their instruments for this movie or if it was dubbed in. This was also a great film for first time director Sam Taylor-Wood.
If you do not know John Lennon’s teenage years, you may be in for a shock or two toward the end of the film. I also thought the written epilogue and pictures at the end were very touching.
Although not a big Beatles fan, Nowhere Boy certainly gave me some insight into the upbringing of John Lennon and how he met Paul McCartney and George Harrison. I am sure the generation that grew up in the 50’s and 60’s will enjoy the nostalgia, and those who are new to John Lennon may be intrigued enough to discover some of his music. Because of the solid acting by the three main actors, I would not be surprised to see Aaron Johnson, Anne-Marie Duff, or Kristin Scott Thomas receive an Oscar nomination.
I give Nowhere Boy 4 “Buddy Holly glasses” out of 5.