A chronicle of John Lennon's first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his stern aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia, who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.
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A pre-fame Beatles head for the seedy clubs of Hamburg in search of success. The band meet up with a group of trendy German beatniks, one of whom (Astrid Kircherr) bass guitarist Stuart Sutcliffe falls in love with. Whilst best friend John Lennon can only watch, Sutcliffe has to choose between rock 'n roll and a new life in Germany... Written by
Some of the paintings Stu makes in the film are reproductions of actual paintings by Stuart Sutcliffe. See more »
A scene dated March 1961 has George being wished a happy 18th birthday. George's actual birthday was in February (as was even mentioned earlier in the film.) See more »
[the Beatles are being deported from Germany after it is discovered that George is underage. The police are escorting them to the train]
[to one of the police officers]
You wouldn't pull me leg. It really is the showers you're taking us to, isn't it, Mr. Goebels?
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At the very end of the end titles, long after all the other music credits have run, one last music credit appears on the otherwise blank screen: "TIME TO GO HOME, Written by Maria Bird, Published by Minder Music." See more »
There's no doubt in my mind that 'Backbeat' is the best movie ever made about the Beatles. Dare I utter such blasphemy-- it may even be better than 'A Hard Day's Night!'
Director Iain Softley (his first film!) and his co-writers chose a period and a time that have always held a lot of romance for the group's fans, their trial-by-fire apprenticeship in the seedy nightclubs of Hamburg, Germany c. 1960. This was the crucible in which the band was transformed from noisy amateurs to professionals ready to take on- and change- the world. The focus is on two young friends from Liverpool, John Lennon (Ian Hart) and Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff). (As a critic once noted, dead men don't file lawsuits.) Stuart is a sensitive lad with a great talent for painting. John is a cynic with a very large chip on his shoulder. He may be sensitive and intellectual, too, but he'd rather die than admit that to anyone. His artistic passion is expressed in the rock & roll music he's driven to play. Stu likes the image more than the music, so he buys a bass guitar, turns his back on a promising art career and joins the band. The fact that he can barely play his instrument is not lost on bandmate Paul McCartney (Gary Bakewell.)
Playing a backbreaking schedule in Hamburg they meet up with two young Germans who become important in their lives- Klaus Voorman (Kai Wiesinger) and especially Astrid Kirchherr (Sheryl Lee), two "exi's", sort of latter-day beatniks or early hippies. Stu and Astrid fall in love and John is both irritated and fascinated by her. Soon Stu has to choose between his love for Astrid and painting and his deep emotional ties to John and the band.
The actors portraying the most well-known characters (Hart, Bakewell and Chris O'Neill as George Harrison) all bear striking resemblances to their look in the early '60's. But this movie not only gets the style right, but the substance as well. Paul McCartney has said it was full of inaccuracies (like John singing "Long Tall Sally," always Paul's number) but as an avid Beatles fan since 1964 my view is that it's a very honest portrayal. Ian Hart shines in his evocation of the complicated personality and tortured soul of John Lennon. He practically looks like a twin of John's son Julian. Sheryl Lee also stands out as the super-cool Astrid in a restrained but powerful performance. The musical performances are fine, too, done by a band including Mike Mills of R.E.M. No Beatle originals are used in the movie but that's OK because at the time they were mostly playing powerful cover versions of American rock and soul. In fact the "B word" is not seen or uttered except once, just before the film's conclusion.
This movie is a triumph for all involved and even though it's not "official" it will only add to the great legacy left by the Beatles.
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