Lennon's youth gets dull telling in "Nowhere Boy"

Friday, June 21, 2024

Sam Taylor-Wood's "Nowhere Boy" is a passable look at the early life of John Lennon when he was estranged from his mother and raised by his aunt. Fans hoping to discover more about the source of the prickly Beatle's creativity will not find it here.

Strong performances by Kristin Scott Thomas as the stern Aunt Mimi, who raised the future Beatle from the age of 5, and Anne-Marie Duff as his troubled mother heighten the dramatic appeal of what otherwise is quite a dull film.

"Nowhere," the closing-night film at the London Film Festival, will open December 25 in the U.K.; the Weinstein Co. has U.S. rights. Denied any Beatles songs because of the time frame and clearly unable to clear rights to the big rock tracks of the day, the film's box-office chances look iffy.

A noted British artist, Taylor-Wood offers a surprisingly cosy look at Lennon's early life. Matt Greenhalgh's screenplay covers the ground but opts too easily for harmony where in real life clearly there must have been serious conflict.

Aaron Johnson ("Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging") makes a decent stab at the young Lennon, though he lacks the original's insolent sneer and remarkable bite, and Thomas Brodie Sangster ("Nanny McPhee") offers a very callow 15-year-old Paul McCartney. There's very little sense that they soon will emerge as the Beatles.

Also, the film lacks any vital sense of Britain in the mid-1950s, particularly the music that was then fuelling youthful ambition, and has no distinct feel for Liverpool. Aunt Mimi raised Lennon in middle-class surroundings, and they did not have the thick Scouse accents of working-class McCartney or George Harrison (Sam Bell), who shows up briefly late in the picture. Still, their speech should echo life in Liverpool, but Taylor-Wood appears tone-deaf in respect to the sound of the place.



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