Directed by: Sam Taylor-Wood Cast: Aaron Johnson, Kristen Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins Rating: R Due Out: January 25, 2011
PLOT: Tells the story a teenage John Lennon (Johnson) as the future Beatle discovers rock n’ roll while being emotionally torn between two mother figures – his strict caretaker aunt (Thomas) and his flighty biological mother (Duff).
WHO'S IT FOR? Nowhere Boy is for those who aren't aware of John Lennon's beginnings as a rock and roller, but want to see it presented in a way that's conscious of its image. Or, this movie might best service those who have an interest in the bemoaning Lennon tune “Mother,” whether the feelings are confusion or admiration. Those who have wondered what Lennon meant by singing “Mother, you had me, but I didn’t have you” can get their feature film-long explanation from this film.
Nowhere Boy invests a lot in its mama drama, which is a different perspective for a music biopic, but is still handled awkwardly. “Oedipus Rocks” is not exactly the direction one may want a movie about any form of John Lennon to take, especially when Lennon would soon in his life stand for much more than Freudian issues. As mentioned above, Nowhere Boy seems to explain one song from Lennon’s life, (which is played before the credits, necessarily) but not much else. Watching this movie, one can’t get the sense that Lennon would eventually grow up to be an international idol, then a rebel, but always a special force in pop culture. Instead, the Nowhere Boy here is a follower, in both his non-unique Elvis haircut, and the notion that he gravitated towards music because it made him popular. Nowhere Boy sometimes shouldn’t claim to be the story of John Lennon, future Beatle and mega-activist, but instead a tale of another misfit down the street who thinks he owns the world because he has a guitar. Or in some cases, this is the prologue for characters David St. Hubens and Nigel Tufnel from This Is Spinal Tap.
Anyone that looks at the pictures at the end of the credits of young John Lennon will know instantly that the real Lennon doesn't have the chiseled features of the person who embodies him here, Aaron Johnson. While Johnson does an above average job here, he is simply not the right fit. Casting someone like Johnson is all the more reason to think that Nowhere Boy is more for an audience that are looking for a new rock star to look up to and identify with, after having moved on from the Jonas Brothers.
Kristen Scott-Thomas plays an important character, but she is terribly underwritten. We always see her at home, smoking or reading. What else does she do? Thankfully, her opposite, played brightly by Anne-Marie Duff, is a more compelling sight, even if her interactions with John seem to push the images of how close a boy can be with his mum.
Imagine what music history would be like if Nowhere Boy’s portrayal of John Lennon were to be exactly true. For one, there’d probably be no Beatles. Lennon and Co. would bomb in their make-or-break trip to Hamburg, labeled to be too similar to other acts. With a larger chip than ever on his shoulder, Lennon would probably return to Liverpool, where he’d continue to take out his aggressions on his aunt’s gate, and then become a bus driver, carting around young brats like his former self, eventually giving up on writing lyrics no one knows he writes because he never thought of them too much in the first place. If this telling of Lennon were to be really spot on, Lennon wouldn't blossom into a Beatle, but instead turn him from Nowhere Boy into his feared state as the “Nowhere Man.”
MOVIE SCORE: 5/10
Nowhere Boy: The Untold Story of John Lennon and the Creation of The Beatles Five Deleted Scenes