Nowhere Boy

Lost Before Penny Lane


08 October 2010| No Comments on Nowhere Boy     by Sean Chavel


Nowhere Boy, about the early life of John Lennon, plays as an anthology of negativity and not the wonders of musical creativity. While there is some early auspicious musical talent and first public performance at a neighborhood carnival festival depicted, the core is a tug of war over maternity issues of who was John’s real mother. Aaron Johnson (“Kick-Ass”) does play the necessary complex notes of John, with whimsical charisma intact. But he is also required to play pissy, mean and smug. It doesn’t help that director Sam Taylor-Wood’s maladroit pacing puts the audience’s emotions at stagnancy. The film grabs you for a few fleeting moments like when we observe John breaking out of his repressed home life and becoming a rebel, and more fun, discovers his charisma over girls.

“Do you know about rock n’ roll, what it means? It’s sex.” John starts running around, sweet-talking girls in his Liverpool hometown, and gets in trouble at school, and so on. Anne-Marie Duff, as his mom, gives him guitar lessons and dancing lessons. The actress shimmies delectably. But it was Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) that raises John, and on a contempt-filled night, will sell his guitar and such. She doesn’t believe that John, with his Elvis ducktail imitation hair, can succeed making music. John spends the course of the movie going back and forth between mom and surrogate mom, and yelling at them in how he feels betrayed.

An unedifying, torpid soundtrack fills the ears, “Mr. Sandman” and “Wild One” among them. These songs remind us that we are in the ’50’s, and they remind us as well these are not the most important days of John at all. With all the effort in trying to get a movie made, you would think filmmakers and screenwriters would want to do a John Lennon movie that captures the height of his popularity, or at least his genius. “Nowhere Boy” is yet another downer biopic that does its damndest to destroy the myth of a legend. Thomas Brodie Sangster though does a good puppy-dog impression of a young Paul McCartney.

At the end of the movie John is off to Hamburg – where the movie should have been by the 15 minute mark and not the 92 minute mark of a 98 minute film. We learn of the fate of his natural mom, Julia, and by the title card, how he continued a respectful relationship with his Aunt. We are supposed to leave and say, “John’s early life was sad, wasn’t it?” And the message is supposed to be how he transcended his lousy upbringing to create transcendent music. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

92 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964); “Yellow Submarine” (1968); “The Buddy Holly Story” (1978); “El Cantante” (2007).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


There are No Comments about this post

Add Yours!

You must be logged in to post a comment.