NOWHERE BOY

NOWHERE BOY

By Gary Murray

Starring Aaron Johnson, Kristen Scott Thomas, Thomas Sangsterm Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrisey

Written by Matt Greenhalgh

Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood

MPAA Rating R

Running time 98 min

Selig Film Rating Matinee

John Lennon was one of the most important figures of the 20th century. With the Beatles and as a solo artist, he was the spokesman of a generation. The records still sell in the millions decades after his tragic death. Though much has been written about both the Beatles and John as a man, there has been little focus on the young Lennon and the pre-Beatles history. The new film Nowhere Boy gives the audience a fictional account of those years.
 
The film opens in 1955 with the It's a Hard Day's Night chord and John (Aaron Johnson) running. Living with his Aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas) and Uncle George (David Threlfall), he is a happy boy who seems to always be getting into trouble. Almost instantly, there is a tragedy. Uncle George has a heart attack. Mimi shows that traditional 'stiff upper lift' and keeps her emotions in check. At the graveside service, John notices a flamboyant looking redhead. He thinks that she is his mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) a woman he hasn't seen in a decade.
 
Then we get the young Lennon. In the snippets of his early childhood, he remembers his parents arguing and Mimi taking him away. He doesn't know where either parents are and Mimi truly is his mother. He has dreams of a distant past but cannot connect the dots.
 
Lennon is driven to find out about Julia and through his friend Stan, John finds that she lives just a short walk away from Mimi. The two young men go and visit Julia with John finding out what a different kind of woman is she is as compared to Aunt Mimi. John begins to hang out with his mom and doesn't let his aunt know.
 
Julia takes John to the cinema and they see a documentary on Elvis. This lights a flame inside the young boy and almost instantly he gets a guitar. He also gets his first rock record by Screamin' Jay Hawkins. There is also the making of John's bitter tongue.
The film is of John being torn between to worlds as he is torn between his two mother figures. It is full of heavy drama as the young future Beatle confronts his bitter past.
 
Director Matt Greenhalgh takes command in Nowhere Boy. Between the brave close-ups and the stark use of shadow he paints a cinematic feature more along the way of the French Wave than modern filmmaking. He just captures the moving images with the talent of an artist, framing each bit with exact care.
 
Nowhere Boy is a star making turn for Anne-Marie Duff. As Julia, she is both a precursor to the wild hippie women of the next decade and the Jack Kerouac women of post WWII. She is a confused soul going different directions at the same time. Lennon wrote both the sweet "Julia" and the bitter "Mother" about her. This little role should have Oscar written all over it.
 
Aaron Johnson has the hardest role of Nowhere Boy. In playing one of the most well-known figures of modern history, everyone has a preconceived notion of the character. He finds that balance between childhood confused boy to raging young man. In one scene where he meets Paul McCartney, we get all the emotions in a few beats. He is proud and arrogant then jealous of someone with such a grasp on music. In just a few beats we get the brotherhood partnership and the brotherhood competition.
 
What else can be said about Kristen Scott Thomas that hasn't been said before. She is a veteran of the stage and cinema giving a strong turn in an unsung role. She tries to do everything right but is eventually rejected. Over the years, John made few references to her. John is hurtful to her, almost to a manic degree. She tries to show a happy face but carries a heavy heart
 
Nowhere Boy has received many awards, both at festivals and the British Oscars. It tells a compelling story about the beginnings of a international figure showing where the teenage years affect ones entire life. Even if you are not a Beatles fan, this is a very interesting slice of life. It would make a great double feature with Back Beat, the story of the Beatles in Germany.
 

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