Nowhere Boy (2009)
Dir: Sam Taylor-Wood
Before he was Kick-Ass he was John Lennon!
This is a biopic of the teenage John Lennon (Aaron Johnson), partly based on things that are known, with gaps filled in with artistic licence and with help from memoirs written by Lennon’s half-sister. It shows how Lennon grew up with his maternal aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott-Thomas) and her husband (David Threlfall), and how he then tries to reconnect with his absent mother (Anne-Marie Duff) who just lives within walking distance but has problems of her own, and how it was a complicated situation.
Lennon lived with his uncle who he clearly adored, and aunt, who he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with, but following the death of his uncle he reconnects with his mother who he hasn’t seen in a very long time. There’s a really odd dynamic that develops with his mother who tries to ‘be a mate’ but isn’t very responsible as a mother, that role is better kept by Aunt Mimi. His mum does however help develop his musical abilities, and teaches him the banjo, but ultimately it is Aunt Mimi who buys his first guitar, while his mum becomes an awkward groupie.
There are quite a few little knowing references dotted in throughout the film, mostly clues popped in the background of shots but lingered upon to allow time for the audience to realise the link, such as a Strawberry fields sign, or the outside of the Cavern Club.
I was expecting it to just be a film about Lennon, but then the story brings in Paul McCartney (Thomas Sangster), and then George Harrison, so it actually shows the early forming of The Beatles which took me a little by surprise. However it doesn’t completely turn into a film about them. It still holds the focus on John, and the end text is all about him and his Aunt Mimi and how they stayed in touch, not a mention about him going on to find success with The Beatles, as really that is too obvious it doesn’t need saying.
Being a biopic of a musician, it does feature some musical performances, and these are very convincing, with a few of the old songs written by young Lennon and McCartney being performed by Johnson and Sangster. Though Aaron Johnson’s scouse accent fluctuates a little in his dialogue, when he’s singing the performances work rather well and he sounds quite believably like a young Lennon.
While working on this film a relationship began between the lead and director, which turned into a marriage, so Sam Taylor-Wood is actually now Sam Taylor-Johnson. Both of them have gone on to do quite well in film, with Aaron Johnson doing a variety of big film roles, and ‘Kick-Ass 2′ currently being on release around the world. Mr’s Taylor-Johnson is set for an even bigger challenge however, hired to direct the film adaptation of the bestselling phenomenon ’50 Shades of Grey’.
I doubt she’ll be casting her husband in the lead for that one!