Tuesday, October 5, 2010

FILM REVIEW: NOWHERE BOY


Aaron Johnson as John Lennon in Nowhere Boy.

Before the world was at his command

By John Esther

Ever since The Beatles existed there have been many films and documentaries with or about John Lennon (1940-1980). Some have been much better than others, but has anything ever been as bad as Nowhere Boy?

Misdirected by Sam Taylor Wood (Love You More) and written by Matt Greenbalgh (Control) this unabashedly nostalgic biopic focuses on the late teenage years of Lennon (Aaron Johnson), with Lennon living with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), while trying to reconnect with his mother, Julia Lennon (Anna-Marie Duff), getting into all sorts of trouble at school, putting together a band called The Quarrymen with Paul McCartney (an excellent Thomas Sangster) and George Harrison (Sam Bell).

For anyone who ever bothered to learn anything beyond a basic familiarity with The Beatles and Lennon he or she would already know John had a strained relationship with his mother who had her sister raise him for most of his early life.

Rather than add anything psychologically productive to these formative years (even though John was always forming and growing before his untimely death), Nowhere Boy focuses on what an irresistible adolescent prankster John was to his mates and the young girls of Liverpool.

Roaming the streets of Liverpool mid-late 1950s, this “Nowhere Boy” smokes cigarettes, drinks beer, illegally rides the bus and sasses back to anyone who dares get in the way of his pretty face (Johnson is noticeably better looking than John had been).

Tallied up, while there are a few flashes of decent writing and some solid acting from the supporting cast, Nowhere Boy lacks any cohesive tempo, substituting sentimentality for skill, histrionics for history, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for “Imagine”-ation. And what a lame title (excellent song, lame title) since John was clearly going somewhere.

Tapping into this nostalgia, Nowhere Boy opens Friday October 8, one day prior to what would have been John’s 70th birthday.

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