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Arts in Review

Film Review: Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy is a British-Canadian biopic about John Lennon’s teenage years, the formation of his first band, The Quarrymen, and his relationship with his mother and his aunt Mimi. While it was released in the UK in December of 2009, it was just recently released in North America.

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by Brittany Wiesner (Staff Writer)

Nowhere Boy is a British-Canadian biopic about John Lennon’s teenage years, the formation of his first band, The Quarrymen, and his relationship with his mother and his aunt Mimi. While it was released in the UK in December of 2009, it was just recently released in North America.

Nowhere Boy stars Aaron Johnson as John Lennon, Thomas Brodie Sangster as Paul McCartney, Kirstin Scott Thomas as Mimi and Anne-Marie Duff as John’s mother Julia. It was directed by Sam Taylor-Wood and semi-based on a memoir by John’s sister Julia Baird. The memoir is titled Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon. However, the film credits don’t reference the book they just credit the screen writer Matt Greenhalgh.

The film follows Lennon’s turbulent relationship with the two predominant female figures in his life: his Aunt Mimi and his mother, Julia. It focuses on his introduction to rock n’ roll, his growing love of music and the confusing emotions these entail. Aaron Johnson is a talented up and comer, having stared in the pre-summer blockbuster Kick Ass, and his portrayal of John Lennon was phenomenal. His ability to immerse himself in the role is incredible; he becomes John Lennon – it is obvious he was emotionally invested in the character. All of the actors were impressive: Thomas Brodie Sangster even learned to play guitar left-handed to play Paul McCartney. Anne-Marie Duff captured the up and down nature of Julia, displaying her wild emotions in a unique and honest way.

The cinematography in the film is brilliant. The director, Sam Talyor-Wood, has a history of excellence in her fine arts career and has worked with various types of media. Nowhere Boy is her directorial debut, and she did a fine job. The shots are all interesting and beautiful. Moments are heightened by the way the camera moves, or the places it pauses. It was filmed on location in Liverpool, which is the perfect backdrop for this biopic. Sometimes period dramas come off phoney and are missing elements. However, the filmmakers were able to take the audience straight into the heart of 1950’s Liverpool. The costumes and setting are perfect and convey the lifestyle of the people of the era. The film even cleverly adds the elements of the growing popularity of Elvis Presley and other rock n’ roll pioneers.

Nowhere Boy introduces us to a John Lennon we’ve never met; the boy before the Beatles, before Yoko and before he became a beacon of almost universal and enduring respect and popularity. Nowhere Boy portrays an intimate glimpse at Lennon’s relationships and how they shaped his personality, especially the troubles and abandonment of his mother and the unfailing love of the woman who ultimately raised him – his aunt Mimi. We also get to see the beginnings of Lennon’s musical career, the formation of The Quarrymen, how Lennon learned to play the guitar and banjo, the growing friendship of Lennon and McCartney and Lennon’s love of art. It’s such a treat to be able to watch a film that entails all that. Any fan of John Lennon should immediately see this film.

What’s interesting is that The Beatles are never once mentioned in the film, and no Beatles song is ever played. The only solo Lennon song played and sung by himself is the song “Mother” which plays during the credits (and will bring tears to your eyes). It truly is an excellent film and once you can’t miss.

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