Saturday, 19 December 2009
FILM REVIEW: NOWHERE BOY
Icon Film Distribution
“And that boy grew up to be . . . John Lennon.” That could be the coda at the end of Nowhere Boy, visual artist Sam Taylor-Wood's directorial debut, for while the character at the film's centre is indeed the Beatles' singer-songwriter, the concerns are more familial than musical.
It's the 1950s and John (Aaron Johnson), in his late teens, failing high school and antagonistic towards authority, lives with his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and uncle George. But when his uncle dies and he spies his estranged mother Julia(Anne-Maire Duff) at the funeral, John begins a quest to connect with the woman who abandoned him. Her seeming joi de vivre and love of rock 'n' roll are a welcome antithesis to his aunt's strict parenting, but as much fun as time spent with his mother is, he can't hide the wound his mother's abandonment caused.
Nowhere Boy is more a domestic drama than any kind of biopic – John Lennon: The Teen Years if you will. It doesn't provide any real insight into what inspired him to become one of the musical greats of the 20th century. Here he simply wants to play rock 'n' roll to pick up chicks; forming a band is performed with all the passion of picking a school yard sports team. You have a guitar? You're in. Paul McCartney makes an appearance, played by Thomas Brodie Sangster, the young boy from Love, Actually now grown and all limbs.
But Aaron Johnson's performance certainly captures the swagger of youth, hinting at the idealistic and anti-authoritarian Lennon would become. Scott Thomas, in typical ice queen mode, and Duff, whose affection for her son borders on icky, are fine as the dueling sisters, managing for the most part to keep the drama from tipping into melodrama.
Nowhere Boy is an enjoyable film but likely to be found lacking by those Beatles and Lennon fans who hoped for a greater examination of the roots of a man who made some of last century's most enduring music.