Nowhere Boy (15)

Film

Drama

Nowhere Boy.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Dec 15 2009

Sam Taylor-Wood’s first feature film is an astute rock ’n’ roll soap opera about the late teenage years of John Lennon. It’s also a bit of a tease. In the opening scene we hear the first chord of ‘Hard Day’s Night’, the sound of screaming girls, a nod to Richard Lester’s film of the same name and then… nothing. In class, the distracted schoolboy John doodles walruses. On the way home, he passes Strawberry Fields. Much later, just as the film is about to end with John walking up a leafy street, about to leave Liverpool for Hamburg and history, his aunt mentions the change of his band’s name from The Quarrymen to… and, no, the name doesn’t pass her lips. The film tiptoes around the future. The Beatles are the elephant in the scene.

In recent years, it’s become the rule that good films about musicians are formally loopy, while the less interesting ones play it straight. So it’s thumbs up for ‘24 Hour Party People’ and ‘I’m Not There’ and a pleasant shrug for ‘Walk the Line’ and ‘Ray’. But ‘Nowhere Boy’ shows no interest in redefining the form: Lennon was a pasty white bloke and so, unlike in Todd Haynes’s Bob Dylan film, it’s a pasty white bloke who plays him (the young, brooding Aaron Johnson, an actor who grows on you but is never quite right); the story is chronological; the narrator is reliable. Taylor-Wood’s background might be in video art but her approach to cinema is fundamentally different. She offers a conservative package with the odd radical flourish. Some of her choices, such as following Lennon and a pal as they ride on the top of a bus, are populist, even jarring, and suggest that she may not have fully found her own language on this first attempt.

Taylor-Wood and screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh mostly play it safe, offering an accessible period piece, free of nostalgia and full of key and credible emotional flashpoints. They focus sensitively on relationships, and especially those Lennon had with his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), with whom he lived, and his absent mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who came back into his life for the short period in the late 1950s covered by the film. The music and the meeting of the boys who became The Beatles take a back seat to this domestic drama. Even the early bonding of John with a more fresh-faced Paul (Thomas Sangster) is explained by the loss, in one way or another, of their respective mothers. When the only Lennon song in the film – ‘Mother’ – plays over the closing credits, it’s a confirmation of the film’s chief theme: mums and the shadow they cast.

The two key performances come from Scott Thomas and Duff as the two women in Lennon’s life. Scott-Thomas plays Mimi as a prude whose attitude is born of protectiveness rather than instinct. Duff, meanwhile, pulls off the trick of being more likeable but less trustworthy. The most interesting element of the film is Taylor-Wood’s suggestion of a latent sexual chemistry between John and his mother, an idea that rather than feeling wild or gratuitous comes across as a sensible observation about a vulnerable but adventurous adolescent.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Sat Dec 26, 2009

Duration:

95 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:3
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  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|21
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pleased filmgoer

I found this a compelling, absorbing, touching and funny film, with great performances from everyone, despite the fact that some characters bore little physical resemblance to the people they were portraying! This really didn't spoil a lovely movie.

Paul

I loved this film and could see it again. Storyline and script for adults and no cgi. Just shows what can be done with a talent team that use computers for invoicing only. A great night out to warm you up.

Paul

I loved this film and could see it again. Storyline and script for adults and no cgi. Just shows what can be done with a talent team that use computers for invoicing only. A great night out to warm you up.

Julian

This was excellent. Take it from me who absorbed and absorbed John Lennon throughout my own teenage years, in my own teenage way (I do feel an authority to some extent, therefore)... It is excellent in just about every way: I don't know what the writer's intention, but the effect is an incredibly poignant focus, or lens -which gets sharper and sharper as the film progresses, on the interior and exterior John Lennon. And I think these protrals are essentially brilliant, accurate and get the essence of this complex, sensitive but fiery young man. I think its attention to emotional detail was amazing.The fact that the 3 Beatles didn’t really look like the real ones only adds to it: I think it would have cheapen the freedom of exploration of the film to find the wax-like similarity of the actors. And being a Beatles lover, I thought the Quarrymen arts are a nice relief from the rather intense (and usually sad) story of the main relationships here. My only negative – slightly- is that I don’t think the actual John Lennon was as demonstrative as this one – something that John Lennon and/or his biographers, seemed to say – that he bottled it all up. However, I think the portrayal of McCartney is very good: who gives a damn what he looks like, this is about character, and I think the quiet ambition and musical-precociousness is conveyed very well indeed. Ultimately, the film left me with a lot to digest for the half an hour or so after it – as only the best films do. A very human film about a very human man: well done Mr. Taylor-Wood.

Julian

This was excellent. Take it from me who absorbed and absorbed John Lennon throughout my own teenage years, in my own teenage way (I do feel an authority to some extent, therefore)... It is excellent in just about every way: I don't know what the writer's intention, but the effect is an incredibly poignant focus, or lens -which gets sharper and sharper as the film progresses, on the interior and exterior John Lennon. And I think these protrals are essentially brilliant, accurate and get the essence of this complex, sensitive but fiery young man. I think its attention to emotional detail was amazing.The fact that the 3 Beatles didn’t really look like the real ones only adds to it: I think it would have cheapen the freedom of exploration of the film to find the wax-like similarity of the actors. And being a Beatles lover, I thought the Quarrymen arts are a nice relief from the rather intense (and usually sad) story of the main relationships here. My only negative – slightly- is that I don’t think the actual John Lennon was as demonstrative as this one – something that John Lennon and/or his biographers, seemed to say – that he bottled it all up. However, I think the portrayal of McCartney is very good: who gives a damn what he looks like, this is about character, and I think the quiet ambition and musical-precociousness is conveyed very well indeed. Ultimately, the film left me with a lot to digest for the half an hour or so after it – as only the best films do. A very human film about a very human man: well done Mr. Taylor-Wood.

Andrew S

Enjoyed the film. Thought that Paul was miscast, though - too young for the much older (2 years difference????) John Lennon. Liked the hints concerning 1) John's relationship with his mother and Aunt Mimi's relationship with Michael Fishwick, the lodger. Can I also add that if perople haven't already then they should read Julia Barid's books on this. Julia was John's step-sister. Her frank writing on being Jphn's sister is hear wrenching to say the least. All teh best

Andrew S

Enjoyed the film. Thought that Paul was miscast, though - too young for the much older (2 years difference????) John Lennon. Liked the hints concerning 1) John's relationship with his mother and Aunt Mimi's relationship with Michael Fishwick, the lodger. Can I also add that if perople haven't already then they should read Julia Barid's books on this. Julia was John's step-sister. Her frank writing on being Jphn's sister is hear wrenching to say the least. All teh best

clivex

Bizarre commenst above. This is a superbly moving and yet entertaining biopic laced with excellent performances and great sense of time and place. Love the review that said the "landscape was wasted". Perhaps the point is that the Beatles were the beatles and lennon was lennon rather than a plastic professional scouser .Perhaps he should watch judith Chalmers instead?

clivex

Bizarre commenst above. This is a superbly moving and yet entertaining biopic laced with excellent performances and great sense of time and place. Love the review that said the "landscape was wasted". Perhaps the point is that the Beatles were the beatles and lennon was lennon rather than a plastic professional scouser .Perhaps he should watch judith Chalmers instead?

Liv

Aaron Johnson is good. The film is okay. It takes too long (despite it being only an hour an a half, there's too much singing (despite being about John Lennon) and it doesn't really seem to have much point. Going by all the biogs and interviews it seems to be pretty truthful to Lennon's life and Yoko Ono gave it the thumbs up (although Paul McCartney hasn't been so enthusiastic). All in all it's a good quality film just a bit too meandering for my taste, I left unsure about what it was trying to say exactly- it's all very well and good to give a blow by blow, but if that's all you want it to be make a docudrama not a film, a film needs a specific journey and this didn't have a clear one. If I'd known I would've just waited for it to come out on tv and then watched it with mild interest. Oh, and small pet peeve- John Paul and George didn't look anything like John Paul or George!

me

I really enjoyed "Nowhere Boy"! It wasn't what I was expecting as I thought it would revolve a lot more about The Beatles but I still loved it! I found it a little confusing to begin with as to who was who, but this soon became clearer as the movie went on. The acting is excellent and very believable, overall quite a good film!

antonia

I went with my 21 yr old son. We both enjoyed the film. It is strongly acted. Yes, Aaron Johnson is too good looking and probably lacks the quirkiness of the real John Lennon. but he is watchable. I would say it is worth seeing and quite moving in a conventional way.

Matt Guzzo

Well.. The few positives.. Aaron Johnson the lead, is good find. No doubt he has a great career ahead of him and one of the few reasons that the film was some what viewable. HOWEVER, It is hard to see a film about John Lennon depicted in such an straight and narrow filming style, it has no edge what so ever. It plays much more like a glorified TV drama and will appeal I suppose to a less arty middle age audience, especially a daily mail type audience. I am not saying the film should be on the edge of creativeness, but even hollywood blockbusters are riskier than this. I can only see that some of the people who funded this film were very concerned and striped any so called 'risky edge' away. It seems clear with 3 producers it was far from as it said in the credits 'A Sam Taylor Wood film' which is a totally crazy statement anyway (I think unless you at least write and direct and maybe produce as well can you consider saying 'A Film by..'). A slight possitive, I think the director shows enough skill to make it in the tv drama world which I must actually commend from a fine artist,and the final emotional scene half worked, but overall I wondered two things. One. I could never imagine the John Lennon we knew (even if yoko approved), ever being happy that he was depicted in this flat dish water style (most likely wouldn't be pleased with anyone using him as someone else's subject) , which then leads me to ask the question how these people have the guts to make a film about such a figure? I also have to say the cinematography from the very over rated Seamus McGarvey really had no fluid look, and seem to relay on filter effects way too much rather than exposure and cinematic skill (the film print I saw looked to have the common british over exposed look). Overall the film looked like the director and writer had read every book on how to make a film but forgot to put in the original ideas they don't put in books that make a director and film great. I say wait until its on tv and save your money.

artillero

Welly, welly, well ! Considering other British films like Clockwork Orage about a similar period this is as safe as you can get. The idea here is not to annoy anyone, except perhaps the average British public composed primarily by mum, dad and the kids. The bottom line is that a few pretty boys and girls from the right side of town have taken up the task revive a British un-classic Working Class Hero Mr Lennon himself. No matter how much the superb Scott Thomas and the other woman try this is extremely suitable for an official Commonwealth performance. However, the mere mention of the towering artistic figure of John Lennon is capable of anything and here it deliveres as usual. John, you survived 'Nowwhere Boy'. Your reputation is intact.

carlo brescia

I should have seen the signs. From the stupid title to the terrible posters to the uninteresting trailers. This film clearly got made because of the subject matter and not because of story or vision. If it wasn't about john Lennon there wouldn't be a film . Visually it was trying but ultimately lacking in true cinematic genius, the film looks very British in the worst sense. This is a clear case of people wanting to make a film for the reason of making a film and using john Lennon to get it made. All the people who funded this garbage should sacked. I want a refund.

Bill Roberts

Absolutely awful - how anyone could believe these characters, for a millisecond, I have no idea. Over made up, over dressed up and over puffed up emotionally. The performances reminded me of the sort of slushy TV acting we are served up by the cheapo BBC 4 celeb biopics which have been all the rage - only Dave Morrissey, underused, is in any way authentic; the direction was dull and unimaginative; the script an embarrassment (what happened to this terrific writer in the process - Control was brilliant?), and the editing and photographic styles were somewhat like poor film school exercises. A very bad film which apparently cost nearly six million pounds! John Lennon would have been embarrassed. And one song? Are we 'having a laugh' here? As Mr Calhoun makes clear they all played safe - not appropriate given the rich sociological territory the subject affords. And Liverpool? The landscape is wasted - thank God for Terence Davies, early Broomfield, Loach, Clarke, and Jimmy McG who provided the world with what this great city was really about during this era. (and yes, the status of the appallingly directed actors are about the only aspect of this sorry exercise which save it from the cultural oblivion it deserves - almost as bad as 51st State, another dire Liverpool Film council fiasco).