Film: Nowhere Boy


Cast includes: Aaron Johnson (The Illusionist), Kristin Scott Thomas (Gosford Park), Anne-Marie Duff (The Magdalene Sisters)
Director: Sam Taylor-Wood (first feature film)
Genre: Drama/Music (2009)

In brief: Despite Aunt Mimi’s taste for classical music and her sensible supervision, Jerry Lee Lewis’s “I’m a Wild One” is a more appropriate soundtrack for John Lennon’s teenaged years. John is a wild one… always in trouble at school. “You’ll be lucky to find a job on the docks. You’re going nowhere,” a teacher tells him. When Uncle George is taken in an ambulance, Mimi tells him not to worry, “He’ll be right as rain.” But he isn’t, and Uncle George’s death makes life with Mimi significantly less joyful. At the funeral, John spots Julia, the red-haired woman he believes is his real mother.

John is curious about her and is surprised to find that she’s a fun-loving rock & roll enthusiast, who doesn’t live far away. When John is expelled from school indefinitely, rather than telling Mimi, he goes to Julia’s house and she teaches him to play the banjo. When Mimi learns about it, she buys John his first guitar, possibly in an attempt to win back his affections. (That’s the movie version, anyway.) John becomes the object of a tug-o-war between sensible, stable Mimi and carefree, unstable Julia. But John has other influences tugging at him… Elvis, for one. “I’m going to start a rock & roll group and be like Elvis.”

The movie has parallel tracks. One track is the formation of the band. The other is John’s often difficult relationships with his mother and his aunt. The filmmakers choose to make John’s family relationships the primary focus. There are no villains in this movie. John loved both women, and both played important roles in John’s life. The problem with movies about people we remember is that it’s impossible for an actor to live up to our expectations. But once we’re on the ride, we accept the actor’s version. While there were many interesting scenes, and Aaron Johnson was enjoyable as Lennon, I was never really able to connect the movie version of Lennon to my memories of Lennon. For a number of reasons, my hopes for this movie were significantly greater than what I saw on screen. I couldn’t help but wonder how a better filmmaker would have approached this topic.


popcorn rating

2 popped kernels

An enjoyable hour and a half, but falls short of expectations


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