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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The story of John Lennon's childhood and teenage years from 1944 to 1960, his relationship with his aunt Mimi and his mother Julia -the two dominant women in the first part of his life-, his first meeting with Paul McCartney and George Harrison, their friendship, their love for music and the birth of The Beatles. Written by
Visual artist Sam Taylor Wood has crafted the most entertaining and thought provoking piece of Lennon mythology to date in her debut feature film Nowhere Boy.
The movie chronicles the adolescent years of John Lennon. Having been brought up by his Aunt Mimi, John's world is turned upside when his free spirited mother Julia re-enters his life, ripping him open and pulling out his artistry as well as pain, anger and frustration.
A number of films and documentaries have tried and failed to make a definitive statement about John Lennon the human being. The reason why Nowhere Boy is so successful is because we are presented with a complex and multi faceted young man, who was a number of things to a number of people and impossible to pigeonhole.
Based on the novel by John's sister Julia Baird with the script penned by Matt Greenhalgh, Nowhere Boy possesses an enormously strong emotional undercurrent that is missing from many films of the biopic genre. The Lennon legend has risen to almost unparalleled mythical heights within our culture and Greenhalgh does a superb job at humanising the story, so much that you forget that you are watching a film about a legend in the making, but rather the story of a young boy caught between the women he loves.
The women in question are John's Aunt Mimi played by the ever brilliant Kristen Scott Thomas and his mother Julia, brought to life in a star making turn by Anne-Marie Duff. Though much of the acclaim seems to be percolating around Duff's performance, Scott Thomas deserves to be equally praised for making the incredibly complex character of Mimi relatable and sympathetic. In the wrong hands Aunt Mimi could have come across as highly unlikeable considering she can often appear distant and cold, but Scott Thomas juxtaposes these instances with such an understated kindness and warmth that we as the audience realise that Mimi is a very caring person who has the misfortune of finding it almost impossible to express sentimental feelings. On the other end of the spectrum Julia appears to be everything Mimi isn't- a free spirit who flouts convention and lives for a good time. Julia is a flirt. She flirts with life, men and even her own son. There is a rather incestuous undercurrent to her and John's relationship such as when she lays on top of him, lost in ecstasy to the tune "I Put A Spell On You". The scene is uncomfortable, as is many aspects of their relationship. In many ways she seems more like a girlfriend to John and as the movie progresses we begin to understand more and more Mimi's misgivings. In many ways Julia has never really grown up and only knows how to engage with men in this seductive manner.
John Lennon is played by relative unknown Aaron Johnson, mainly associated with his role in Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. Johnson breaks free from the shackles of his teen pin-up persona and delivers a mature and layered performance worthy of accolades. Johnson fully embodies Lennon's complexities; he is both good and bad, insecure and arrogant, sensitive and brutal, caring and careless. From Lennon's wit to his magnetism, pain, anger and sarcasm, Johnson gets it all. Considering Lennon is one of the most imitated celebrities of our time Johnson does well to avoid caricature, creating a version of Lennon at his most human. Johnson's vocal abilities also sound eerily reminiscent of a young Lennon, making him an excellent choice in more ways than one.
Taylor Wood is definitely a talent to watch as she not only elicits fine performances from her cast but also manages to capture the essence of post war Liverpool in a vivid and imaginative way. Gone are the bleak greys, squalid mean streets and endless rows of two up two down houses that usually characterises the depictions of the area. Instead we are presented with a much more colorful and vibrant depiction of Liverpool, a City just beginning to discover the charms of rock and roll. The excitement in the air is palpable.
One of the greatest attributes of Nowhere Boy is the soundtrack, crammed with classics from Elvis Presley, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Eddie Cochran. Coupled with these original rock songs are covers sung by Aaron Johnson and Thomas Sangstar as their respective characters.
Nowhere Boy is an absolute gem of a film that will hopefully find the audience it deserves. You'll laugh, cry and kick yourself for not learning guitar in your youth. Possibly the most touching film of the year, there is nowhere else you should be on Boxing Day. FOR MORE REVIEWS FEEL FREE TO VISIT http://rantsreviews4filmnuts.blogspot.com/
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